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Can I enforce a family court costs order made in England and Wales?

Learn when the family court will issue a costs order and how you can go about enforcing one.

Can I get a costs order in family proceedings?

The general rule is that the court will not make an order requiring one party to pay the legal costs of the other. You should therefore be prepared to cover all of your own legal fees.

However, there are exceptions.

When will the family court make a costs order?

The usual circumstance in which the court will consider awarding costs would involve one party not complying with court orders and court rules.

The court may also look at whether one party has made reasonable offers to settle, whether they have run reasonable arguments and whether their conduct justifies the making of a cost order.

What happens if the other party won’t pay the costs order?

The usual rule is that costs orders have to be paid within 14 days, unless another time period is stipulated. If the costs are not paid on time, then you should consider enforcement.

An enforcement application would be made to the Court explaining the following:

  1. What part of a court order has been breached.
  2. What is the breach.
  3. What method of enforcement you are seeking and against what assets.

Will I recover the costs of enforcement?

If you are successful, then it is likely the costs you incur by enforcing will be added to the original costs order due to be paid.

How will the court enforce payment of the costs order?

There are various methods which the court may consider, but the most common are:

  • Attachment of Earnings Order: when the monies owed are taken directly from the debtor’s employment income over a period of time.
  • Warrant of Control: when goods are seized from the debtor and sold at public auction to meet the debt.
  • Charging Order: when a charge is placed over the debtor’s property, and consideration can then be given to seeking a sale of the property to recover the amount due.

The court may also consider an application for a Penal Notice which would place the debtor in contempt of court if a costs order is not settled. That would give the court the power to imprison the debtor for non-payment (usually a summary term only) or look at other sanctions such as a fine or the seizing of assets.

When is a Hadkinson Order used?

A Hadkinson Order either limits, or prevents, a person’s ability to participate in court proceedings until they have complied with previous court orders. This may be useful if the debtor is bringing the proceedings but much less useful if you want to conclude the court proceedings as this could just cause delay.

For further information on enforcing a family court costs order, contact our family solicitors.