Costs Orders in Parenting Proceedings

byKristen Tannas

Costs Orders in Parenting Proceedings

Courts can order a party to litigation to make a contribution to another party’s legal costs. Such an order is referred to as an order for costs. Costs orders are often made following court appearances.

Generally, the successful party at the court appearance will be awarded costs, subject to the court’s discretion. In deciding whether to order costs, courts will consider factors such as the importance of the issues, the complexity of the action and the conduct of the parties, among others. The purpose of a costs order is to compensate the successful party and to discourage poor behaviour by litigants, such as delay or failure to make proper disclosure.

Is There a Special Rule for Costs in Parenting Cases?

Alberta courts have concluded that costs in parenting cases will be determined in the same way as in other cases. In Metz v Weisgerber, 2004 ABCA 151, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that there is no special rule for costs in custody disputes.

What Conduct Will Attract an Award for Solicitor-Client Costs in a Parenting Case?

Costs orders will usually only compensate successful parties for a small portion of the legal expenses they actually incurred.

In certain unusual cases, courts will order that a party be fully compensated for his or her legal costs- this is known as “solicitor-client costs”.

Courts will usually only award solicitor-client costs where a party has engaged in “reprehensible, scandalous or outrageous conduct.”

In JWS v CJS, 2022 ABCA 63, the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in JWS v CJS, 2021 ABQB 411, ordering the father to pay the mother solicitor-client costs totaling $424,000.00.

The mother was the successful party in the action and was awarded primary parenting of the parties’ children. In deciding to order solicitor-client costs, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench noted the father’s significant misconduct throughout the litigation, including making serious false allegations about the mother, and coaching the children to make false claims about the mother to the court, police and experts, which greatly prolonged the litigation.


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