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Court fees erode access to justice

Briefs

Cite as: August 2015 89 (8) LIJ, p.10

Hikes in court fees should be reversed in the interests of access to justice, according to the Law Council of Australia (LCA).

LCA president Duncan McConnel is concerned that “unwarranted and unfair” increases in filing fees in the High Court, Federal Court, Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are further undermining access to justice.

“Just two years ago, Federal Court filing fees were tripled. Now, court users are having even greater taxes imposed on them while little is given back to the justice system,” Mr McConnel said.

He said the fee changes are expected to raise $87.4 million, of which $24 million will be reinvested in the justice system. Since 2010, court users have paid additional taxes of $256 million. Of this, $66.2 million has contributed to legal assistance services and $60 million has been allocated to the courts.

The LCA’s Family Law Section chair Rick O’Brien said that revenue raised not being fully invested back into the underfunded family courts increases the impact. In 2013, a Senate Committee delivered a report on changes to filing fees in the federal courts since 2010. None of its recommendations has been implemented, including that there be consultation before any further fee changes.

The full divorce fee in the Federal Circuit Court is increasing by $355 to $1200 and by $5 to $1200 in the Family Court. Consent orders are now $240 and issuing subpoenas $125. Amended applications, a new charge, will cost $125. Overall, there is an 11 per cent increase to all fee categories not subject to a targeted increase.

“Many people on middle-to-low incomes may find it simply too expensive to enforce their rights through the courts, which will undermine the rule of law and the proper administration of justice,” Mr McConnel said.

Court fees up

$256m

  • Court users have been subject to additional taxes of $256 million.
  • Divorce fees up

    The divorce fee in the Federal Circuit Court is increasing by $355 to $1200 and by $5 to $1200 in the Family Court.

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