The starting point is that each parent will have to pay one third of the total fees. The Court will meet the other third. However, a parent could be ordered to pay up to two thirds of the fee.
To date it hasn’t been clear whether parents receiving legal aid would be liable for lawyer for child’s fees. The High Court has now confirmed that a legally aided parent will not have to pay anything towards lawyer for child’s costs, unless there are exceptional circumstances. The threshold to finding exceptional circumstances is very high, so it is safe to say that in the vast majority of cases, a legally aided person will not have to pay a contribution to lawyer for child’s costs.
The consequence of this ruling is of course very good news for legally aided parties.
There may however be significant consequences for parents who are not eligible for legal aid, where the other parent is. It is not hard to foresee situations where the legally aided party may take an unreasonable position, safe in the knowledge that they will not be liable for costs, but knowing that for every hour that lawyer for child spends on the case, their private-paying ex will have to pay more towards not only their own lawyer’s fees, but also lawyer for child’s.
Time will tell whether in these cases the private-paying parent will be ordered to pay two thirds of the costs, because their ex is on legal aid.