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Practice notes

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2010 84(12) LIJ, p.59

New federal court fees

Regulations introducing changes to federal court fees commenced on 1 November 2010.

These Regulations amend the High Court of Australia (Fees) Regulations 2004, Federal Court of Australia Regulations 2004, Family Law Regulations 1984, Federal Magistrates Regulations 2000 and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Regulations 1976. The changes affect all federal courts, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and state and territory courts exercising family law jurisdiction.

The new Regulations and accompanying explanatory statements can be accessed on the ComLaw website www.comlaw.gov.au. The new fees for the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court are shown below.

The Regulations:

  • introduce low flat fees ($100 for general law matters and $60 for family law matters) to replace fee waivers and certain fee exemptions;
  • include measures to ensure that the new low flat fees do not affect access to justice (including deferral of fees, ensuring courts have discretion to hear matters where a fee has not been paid, and enabling registrars and authorised officers to waive fees for subsequent closely related applications where the person is in a set category); and
  • harmonise federal family law courts fees with the fees for state and territory courts exercising family law jurisdiction.

Family Law Courts

Fee increase

The following fees apply in the Family Law Courts from 1 November 2010. Please note: GST does not apply to these fees. A brochure reflecting the updated fees is available on the Family Law Courts website www.familylawcourts.gov.au.

Family Court of Australia

Document or service
Applications

Application for consent orders $80

Application for nullity $777

Application for a declaration as to validity $777

Initiating application (family law) $243

Response to initiating application (family law) $243

Reduced fee* $60

Hearing

Setting down for hearing fee (defended matter) $608

Daily hearing fee (for each hearing day, excluding the first hearing day) $608

Reduced fee* $60

Appeals

Notice of appeal from a court of summary jurisdiction $608

Notice of appeal to the Full Court, including an appeal from the Federal Magistrates Court $956

Federal Magistrates Court of Australia

Document or service
Applications

Application for divorce $550

Initiating application (family law) $243

Response $243

Reduced fee* $60

Hearing

Setting down for hearing fee (defended matter) $444

Daily hearing fee (for each hearing day, excluding the first hearing day) $444

Reduced fee* $60

*In some cases, reduced fees may apply, for example for holders of certain government concession cards or if they can demonstrate financial hardship. For more information contact the Family Law Courts National Enquiry Centre on ph 1300 352 000 or email enquiries@familylawcourts.gov.au.

Magistrates’ Court

Early neutral evaluation pilot program

Practice Direction No 4 of 2010

Background

The purpose of this practice direction is to commence a pilot program of early neutral evaluation at the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria at Melbourne.

In the context of this Court, early neutral evaluation is a process in which a magistrate investigates the dispute and provides a non-binding opinion on the likely outcome. The magistrate will have expertise in civil litigation.

Non-binding means that there will be no consequences flowing from the failure of the parties to adopt the evaluation.

This program will be available to parties as another form of appropriate dispute resolution.

The pilot program will continue until 31 October 2011.

Directions

1. From 1 November 2010, the Court will commence this program at Melbourne.

2. The pilot program will apply to those defended civil disputes which are:

(a) selected as suitable by the Court on its own motion; or

(b) found suitable by the Court after considering the written submissions of one or more of the parties.

In either case, the Court would not allow a review of its decision, and it will not provide reasons for that decision.

3. It will apply to the disputes referred to in clause 2 where a notice of defence is filed on or after 1 November 2010.

4. Where a dispute has had an early neutral evaluation, the parties will not be required by the Court to undertake any other form of appropriate dispute resolution except a trial. However, this does not prevent the parties from engaging in mediation or any other form of dispute resolution outside the Court.

5. The early neutral evaluation will occur within eight weeks of the filing of a notice of defence. It will take place before a magistrate in a courtroom.

6. The parties must be prepared to explain the factual and legal issues to the magistrate. Unless the magistrate directs otherwise, no oral evidence will be given.

7. It is the duty of each party to the Court to cooperate in the conduct of the early neutral evaluation to further the administration of justice.

8. (1) All parties must attend the early neutral evaluation –

(i) personally; and

(ii) if a party has appointed a legal practitioner or other person empowered by law to appear for the party, together with that legal practitioner or other person.

(2) If a party referred to in sub-clause (1) is a corporation –

(iii) a legal practitioner; and

(iv) a person in the exclusive employment of the corporation who is authorised in writing to attend the early neutral evaluation on behalf of the corporation –

must attend the early neutral evaluation.

(3) In addition to the requirements of sub-clauses (1) and (2), all parties must have present at the early neutral evaluation a person who has the authority to decide whether or not to settle the proceeding or settle the part of the proceeding that has been referred to early neutral evaluation.

(4) If an insurer is indemnifying a party, the person referred to in sub-clause (1) may be an officer or employee of the insurer.

9. The process and conduct of an evaluation will be at the discretion of the magistrate but, unless otherwise directed, the program will be as follows:

(1) The parties must bring to the evaluation all documents in the possession of the parties which support or are injurious to that party’s claim, defence or counterclaim;

(2) The hearing with the evaluator will be held in private. It will not exceed three hours. Each party will be given up to 60 minutes to explain their case, both factually and legally. Some of this time may be spent answering questions of the evaluator. The remaining time will be devoted to the evaluation. Usually, the evaluator will give his or her evaluation orally at the end of the parties’ submissions. However, the evaluator may give the evaluation in writing;

(3) The early neutral evaluation will not be sound recorded. Practice Direction No 1 of 1999 does not apply to early neutral evaluation.

10. On completion of the early neutral evaluation, the magistrate will advise the parties of a hearing date should that be required. The hearing will be given such priority as the Court’s list of cases permit.

11. The costs of an evaluation will be included in the costs of the proceeding. The items in Appendix A to the Rules relating to mediation will apply.

12. The magistrate who conducts the early neutral evaluation will not conduct the trial.



Chief Magistrate Ian L Gray, 12 October 2010

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