Family Procedure Rules & Costs Sanctions for Non-Compliance



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What are the Family Procedure Rules?

The Family Procedure Rules are a set of rules that apply in family proceedings across the High Court and Family Courts. They work side-by-side with Practice Directions, allowing Court proceedings to run smoothly.

Adherence to the FPR by both the Court and parties to proceedings is important, as they ensure that cases are dealt with justly, fairly, proportionally, equally, cost-effectively, and appropriately in regard to the Court resources.


What Do the Rules Cover?

The Family Procedure Rules cover the entire process by which disputes should be handled. Some of the notable areas include:

Alternative Dispute Resolution – ADR saves time and money for the court and the parties so it should always be considered as an alternative to a hearing in Court.  Parties are requested to engage in ADR prior to utilising Court resources to ensure no amicable resolution can be reached.  It is commonplace in family legal disputes for matters to be in contention for months or even years, only for matters to be settled prior to any Final Hearing being necessary.  Parties are therefore always encouraged to try and resolve matters between themselves before, and during any legal process is commenced.

Forms and Proceedings – It is vital to take note of these rules as mistakes within the forms will delay proceedings and incur further legal costs.  It is also imperative that the correct forms are utilised in respect of the type of family order being sought.  For example FL401 and FL403 forms are utilised for non-molestation applications, and the C100 form is utilised for Children’s Act orders in respect of child’s arrangement, specific issue or prohibited steps orders.

Service Requirements – Similarly to the above, regard should be paid to these rules to ensure that sanctions for failure to serve applications and evidence effectively, are not applied by the Court.

Specific Proceedings – Part 12 of the FPR and the supporting Practice Directions provide specific requirements for certain dispute types.  Ensure these are referred to dependant upon the application made.

Procedure and Evidence – Position statements are often exchanged in family proceedings prior to hearings, and in addition Part 25 of the FPR should be considered when assessing the reasonableness of obtaining expert evidence.

Costs – The general rule of thumb in family proceedings is ‘no order as to costs’ i.e. the parties bear their own costs.  However, FPR 28.1 stipulates the Court may make any costs order they see as just.  Typically an inter-partes costs order would only be made to penalise poor conduct or compliance with directions.  The Rules do however, indicate such an order would most likely be made in financial remedy applications, where there are already assets and financial amounts in dispute, and set out the basis upon which an application can be made for costs under circumstances of unreasonable.

The FPR are extensive and cannot be covered all in detail here.  It is therefore recommended that when taking any step in family proceedings, that the FPR are consulted to ensure proper compliance with the Rules to avoid falling foul of the same, and any criticism by your opponent or the Court.



Who Makes the Rules?

The Family Procedure Rule Committee produces the Family Procedure Rules. They are a committee made up of 17 members and a chairman.

The committee meets regularly to ensure that the rules are in keeping with the times and are fulfilling their purpose. Generally, meetings are closed. However, an annual open meeting is held to ensure that public voices are heard too.


Sanctions for Non-Compliance 

Within Part 4.5 of the Family Procedure Rules, sanctions are addressed.

It is highlighted in (1) that “where a party has failed to comply with a rule, practice direction or court order, any sanction for failure to comply imposed by the rule, practice direction or court order has effect unless the party in default applies for and obtains relief from the sanction.” 

It is vital that parties pay attention to the specified times on rules, practice directions and court orders, as these dates cannot be extended via an agreement between the parties if the consequences are specified on the document.

Parties can be relieved of costs sanctions if they successfully seek a costs order. However, the court will consider a number of factors including “the administration of justice…whether there is a good explanation for the failure…whether the application for relief has been made promptly.” Therefore, it is not a guarantee that relief will be granted and it should not be considered as an easy fall-back position.


How can ARC Costs Assist?

Whilst family proceedings are generally concluded with ‘no order as to costs’, it is common for our costs services to be required on conclusion of matters.

We often assist legally aided parties and their Solicitors recover their costs from the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).  Common publicly funded work includes Domestic Abuse, Children Act, Ancillary Relief and Care proceedings, and we assist in the quantification of costs incurred to try and maximise recovery from the LAA and to escape any fixed costs exceptional thresholds where appropriate.  We also provide CCMS administrative services to ensure your costs claims are effectively dealt with and processed online.

We also regularly provide assistance to law firms in processing fixed costs matters, as well as exceptional costs claims and Very High Costs Cases (VHCCs).

Where an inter-partes costs order has been made due to unreasonable behaviour, as independent costs experts we can assist either of the Receiving or Paying Parties to maximise/minimise the recovery of legal costs respectively. We often assist parties in preparing the relevant costing instruments, such as a Bill of Costs, as well as in negotiation of the same, and conducting of detailed assessment proceedings.

To find out more about how our expert Costs Draftsmen and Costs Lawyers can help you, please contact us on 01204 397302 or email us on



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