Thursday, 29 March 2018

Litigant In Person Escapes Costs Order

Court proceedings about the welfare of  a child under the Children Act 1989 are often painful enough for the parents (or other parties) without them being saddled with having to pay the legal costs of the other side which has been successful.

The Court of Appeal has just reiterated the principle that in cases of this kind there should not be an order for costs against the unsuccessful party unless their behaviour in the proceedings has been reprehensible. In the case in question, the unsuccessful party on an appeal was a litigant in person, had not behaved reprehensibly and had not been warned in advance that a costs order was going to be sought. Even if there had been reprehensible behaviour, the procedure for getting costs dealt with at the hearing which generally applies had not been followed. That requires the party seeking costs to have sent to the other party a particularised statement of the costs involved and to have done so at least 24 hours before the hearing. In the absence of doing so, the judge might well refuse to make an order for costs even if they would otherwise have done so. The procedure also applies to other family and civil cases.

The costs order in the Children Act case* was quashed.

For how a litigant in person can obtain a costs order in their favour, see chapter 26 of Breaking Law.

* Re A (a child) (2008) CA 13 March 2018