Court or Tribunal cost: Will your opponent foot the bill?

If you are involved in a Court or Tribunal case, it is very important to understand and be prepared for the costs and fees you may incur. Court or Tribunal proceedings are becoming more commonplace these days and everyone wants to know how much it will cost them.

Our Litigation team answers commonly asked questions by our customers.

What types of Court or Tribunal costs are there?

Court & Tribunal Fees

For certain documents to be filed during Court or Tribunal proceedings, one or both parties may need to pay a filing or administrative fee to the Court or Tribunal. Common examples are an initial filing fee to commence legal proceedings or a fee for the final hearing.

These fees are often borne by the party who commenced the proceedings. In limited circumstances, such as financial hardship, these fees can be waived on application to the Court or Tribunal.

Legal Costs

If you retain the services of a Lawyer, you will need to pay costs to your Lawyer. The amount of these costs are a private arrangement between you and your Lawyer and will depend on what happens during the course of proceedings.

If the matter settles in the early stages, obviously your overall costs will be much less than if the proceeding goes all the way to a final trial.

As to how much your Lawyer would charge for legal costs for fully contested proceedings through to a final hearing, such costs vary widely, depending on the amount of legal work, which in turn depends on the level of complexity of the issue, and in which Court or Tribunal the matter will be heard.

Naturally, any reputable Lawyer will work had to resolve the dispute, for example through mediation, thereby reducing the likelihood that the matter will proceed to a court or tribunal hearing.

Disbursements and Expenses

During the course of your matter, there will be other expenses such as expert fees, barrister's fees, company or title search fees, photocopying, travel expenses etc.


While not a 'court cost' as such, at the conclusion of proceedings, you may be ordered by a Court or Tribunal to pay a fine to the Court and/or to various government agencies. Such fines include fines for non-payment of speeding infringements or breach of some statute and the like.

The Court or Tribunal will include in its Order the time within which you need to pay the fine. This timeframe will depend on the amount and type of fine, but generally you will be looking at payment within 30 90 days.

Can you Recover Court or Tribunal costs?

You will need to pay the above mentioned Court or Tribunal fees and legal costs to your Lawyer out of your own pocket, in the first instance.

A Court or Tribunal can order that one party 'reimburse' the other party's legal costs, fees and disbursements for the entire proceeding, or just from a certain date or just relating to a certain application. Such an order for costs will usually only cover a portion of the total costs.

You will not be able to recover Court or Tribunal fines from any other party, as a fine is a penalty for some wrongdoing by you.

Ultimately, the recovery of Court or Tribunal fees and legal costs will depend on a combination of a number of circumstances. The three main factors are:

1. The jurisdiction (Court or Tribunal) of the proceedings

2. Whether you "win" or "lose"

3. Any settlement offers made during the course of proceedings.

For example, the Fair Work Commission and VCAT are usually 'no-costs' jurisdictions, meaning that even if you were successful in full or in part, you would generally have to bear your own costs in full. However, if you are fully successful in a Court, you will often obtain an order that the other party pay your costs pursuant to a 'Court Scale'. The Court Scale sets out a certain amount of money that can be recovered from the other party for each particular action taken or document prepared, for example we often find that Scale Costs cover approximately 60% of the total costs that you actually incur to your lawyer.

On the other hand, if you are unsuccessful, you may be ordered to pay your opponent's legal costs on Scale, in addition to your own legal costs.


There are exceptions to the above. For example, only a limited amount of costs will be recoverable for 'small claims' in the Magistrates' Court, which is where the claim amount is under $10,000.00.

Settlement offers made and rejected during the proceedings can change the usual position concerning costs if the matter proceeds to a trial. Such offers can result in an order for costs being made when otherwise an order would not necessarily be awarded. Settlement offers can also result in an order that the other party pay every single dollar of costs that you have incurred, instead of just scale legal costs.

Notwithstanding the above, an order for costs is never a guarantee, as Courts and Tribunals have wide powers to order (or not to order as the case may be) legal costs if they think it is in the interests of justice.

The Victorian Family Law Courts are more likely to order that each party bears their own costs, unless there are very special circumstances.

How to avoid Court or Tribunal costs?

There is no way to avoid Court or Tribunal fees or legal costs totally. Even if you represent yourself, there may be filing fees and expenses that you need to pay.

However, the making of reasonable and timely settlement offers (of which there are different types) throughout the course of proceedings will often place you in a good position with respect to costs, as well as increasing the chances of resolving the matter without needing a final trial.

How can Sharrock Pitman Legal help you?

Our team of Lawyers can provide you with advice on your legal position and costs for a wide range of legal disputes. Our litigation Lawyers can provide you with their advocacy skills to keep a dispute out of a Court or a Tribunal, if at all possible. If Court or Tribunal proceedings are commenced, our Lawyers will help you navigate through the litigation process with expert advice and cost effective representation.

Call Sharrock Pitman Legal today on 1300 205 506.

The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

For further information contact  
Caroline Callegari

Caroline Callegari is an Associate Principal and leads our Disputes & Litigation team. She has an advisory and advocacy practice in the following areas: Commercial Litigation, corporate and personal disputes, debt recovery and, insolvency and bankruptcy matters. Caroline can be contacted on (03) 8561 3324.


For fifty years Sharrock Pitman Legal has made a significant and long term contribution to meeting the legal needs of business owners and residents in the City of Monash and greater Melbourne area.

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