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Are self-represented litigants entitled to costs?

In theory, if a self-represented litigant is successful at a hearing, or a trial, they are entitled to pursue a claim for costs provided they can establish entitlement. The Family Law Rules provide that a successful party is entitled to their costs- albeit, most of the time, it refers to legal fees paid to a lawyer. The purpose of a costs award is to encourage settlement, indemnify the successful party, and discourage inappropriate behaviour which both prolongs the process and escalates expense.

However, a self-represented party is not entitled to costs which are calculated on the same basis as an individual who retains counsel. Anyone involved in litigation, whether they are represented or not, will lose a significant amount of time and energy as part of that litigation. A self-represented person needs to demonstrate that they lost opportunity costs for paid work because of their involvement in having to present their case to the court. Costs of appearing in court (because you would have to appear in court anyway, even if you have a lawyer) cannot be considered.

In Voth v. Voth, the litigant was looking for the court to award him $100.00 per day for the length of the proceedings. However, since he did not submit any evidence that he was not being paid by his employer during his attendances in court, the judge found that there was no basis upon which to make a costs award.

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