Are costs orders in Children Proceedings making a comeback?

In the very recent case of A v R [2020] EWFC B51, the Family Court has reassessed the issue of when costs orders can and should be made in Private Children law proceedings (ie arguments over matters such as the time children are to spend with each parent and – as was the case here – issues such as whether they can go on holiday with a parent to a particular country).  

Throughout my career in Family law, costs orders in the Family Court have been few and far between, especially in Children proceedings (no matter how poorly a party/parent has behaved!) but it seems change is afoot. 

The Judge in this case found that the mother’s “conduct went far beyond what is reasonable, she made barely any effort to engage in these proceedings which were justifiably commenced by the [Father]. In my judgment, taking all matters referred to herein into account, it is just to order her to make a contribution to the [Father]’s costs in the sum of £15,000. This is to be paid by 31 December 2020.”

The mother was found by the Judge to be a highly educated, smart, and capable woman that had deliberately not engaged in the process and had clearly hoped that the existence of the global pandemic would enable her to bury her head in the sand without consequence. 

The case has highlighted the need to engage properly in court proceedings or risk a costs order being made against you; it also demonstrates the court’s no nonsense approach to the pandemic being used improperly as an excuse. 

I am satisfied that the true reason for non response is as she said - she thought that the case would be adjourned due to CV19. The M has ignored these court proceedings hoping that they would go away. She has chosen not to communicate to the court until over 5 months later, the day before the hearing listed on 24.6.20. She has not made any attempts to email the F or his solicitor or the court - a simple email could have been sent setting out that she was ill and sought more time.