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Re T (A Child) [2005] EWCA Civ 311

Orders for costs in children cases, although unusual, may be made in appropriate circumstances

Re T (A Child) [2005] EWCA Civ 311

Court of Appeal: Potter and Wall LJJ (21 March 2005)

Orders for costs in children cases, although unusual, may be made in appropriate circumstances.

The mother and father separated in March 2002, and the father applied for contact with their son who had been born in November 1999. At a hearing in October 2002 before a different judge, the parties had reached an agreement regarding contact; however, there followed a series of hearings between December 2002 and May 2004, which benefited from judicial continuity.

In respect of four of these hearings, the father was awarded costs against the mother, on the basis that there had been no reason for the mother to depart from the compromise reached in October 2002; it had been reasonable for the father to defend himself against serious accusations concerning his suitability for contact; and the mother had behaved unreasonably in relation to the conduct of the litigation.

The mother was given permission to appeal: there was a reasonable prospect of success on the ground that the costs order was not a correct exercise of the judge's discretion, since she had relied on what was 'fair in all the circumstances' as her test. On appeal, the mother also made the point that the father was in a much stronger financial position than she was.

The court reviewed the judge's management of this case, and found it to be a paradigm example of how a difficult contact dispute should be handled. The court also considered that the principles governing the award of costs in children cases were well established.

Held, dismissing the appeal, that the judge had been right in her assessment that the mother's conduct in relation to the litigation was unreasonable; and the judge had properly exercised her discretion, in all the circumstances of the case, to make the costs orders.

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