Legal Costs

Will I have to pay legal costs to the other party?

In most matters in the Federal Court, the unsuccessful party is ordered to pay part of the legal costs of the successful party. The amounts involved can be many thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands.

Costs orders are enforceable. If you fail to pay the costs, then the order may be enforced in the Federal Court, which could result in, for example, a warrant for seizure and sale of property, or an application for bankruptcy or winding-up.

For further information, regarding costs refer to the:

See also the Enforcement, Endorsement and Contempt Practice Note (GPN-ENF).

The Court’s power to award costs

The Court has wide powers about costs. The orders the Court might make include:

  • Make a lump sum costs order
  • Not order costs even if a party loses, because for example the case was about a matter of public interest, or important legal principle
  • At the start of the matter, the Court can place limits on the costs which can be ordered, which are sometimes called “cost capping orders”. Cost capping orders can be made at the start of a matter and limit (or ‘cap’) the maximum amount of costs that the successful party (whoever that is) can recover. If you want the Court to consider a costs capping order you should raise this with the Judge
  • Make an order that the losing party pay the winning party’s costs (this is the most common costs order)
  • Make an order that the losing party pay some but not all of the winning party’s costs

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