A recent family law decision applied the existing legal principles relating to the awarding of legal costs to self-represented litigants. These principles were first set out by the Court of Appeal over 15 years ago.
– a self-represented litigant does not have an automatic right to costs;
– the matter remains fully within the discretion of the trial judge;
– to be considered eligible for costs, the self-represented litigant must demonstrate that they devoted time and effort to do work ordinarily done by a lawyer retained to conduct the litigation and in doing so incurred an opportunity cost by foregoing remunerative activity;
– self-represented litigants should not recover costs for the time and effort that any litigant would have to devote to the case; and
– self-represented litigants should receive only a “moderate” or “reasonable” allowance for the loss of time devoted to preparing and presenting the case.
It has been over 15 years since the Court of Appeal set out these guidelines. Given the exponential increase of self-represented litigants since then, is it time to revisit these guidelines or do they continue to be adequate?