Written by a Trainee at Bidwell Henderson
Having costed only files relating to care proceedings during my first month at BHCC, in November I costed a file relating to domestic abuse proceedings. In that case, the Applicant had been provided by police with a domestic violence protection notice lasting 28 days; Domestic abuse proceedings were commenced due to the expiration of that notice.
The court process
Often, domestic abuse proceedings are issued on an ex parte application to avoid giving notice to the Respondent. The application will be for a non-molestation order (which are quite commonly granted by the Court at the ex-parte hearing). Once one is made a process server is usually instructed on the Applicant’s behalf, to serve notice of the non-molestation order and the return hearing upon the Respondent; the costs may be included as a reasonable disbursement under the terms of the Legal Aid Certificate
The process thereafter depends upon whether the Respondent contests the order. The case may proceed to a final hearing or may simply conclude with the existing order remaining in force should the Respondent agree to or it or not actively oppose it.
The standard fee
There is a standard fee for domestic abuse proceedings under the Private Family Law Representation Scheme, which covers work up to and including the final hearing. It is rare that the standard fee is escaped as such proceedings are usually very succinct. Advocacy in these proceedings can be claimed under the Family Advocacy Scheme.
Interestingly, if further court hearings become necessary to deal with a breach of such an injunction (for example, an application for committal), a second standard fee for domestic abuse proceedings can be claimed under the same Legal Aid Certificate (or may be claimed under a new Certificate if the original one has been withdrawn). As soon as an advocate attends one or more enforcement or committal hearings in relation to the breach of injunction, a claim for a second standard fee is facilitated. No more than two standard fees can be claimed during one set of domestic abuse proceedings. Where the second standard fee becomes payable, the aggregate of the first and second standard fees determine the threshold required to escape the standard fee.
What cannot be claimed for in these proceedings?
It is important to note that no fee for Counsel’s opinion can be claimed under the Family Advocacy Scheme (FAS) in domestic abuse proceedings. The same applies to any fee incurred for a Conference with Counsel.
It should also be noted that no bundle payments may be claimed under the FAS in respect of any type of hearing in domestic abuse proceedings.