Reference and support materials for case law research and legal education.

Back to glossary


An award of costs is a sum of money ordered by the court to be paid to one of the parties to litigation by another in respect of the expenses of managing the litigation.

The costs may be assessed by the court or agreed between the parties. They cover lawyers’ fees and other expenses such as court fees, expert witnesses’ fees, and travel expenses.

Costs are normally awarded at the end of a case; but a costs order may also be made at an interim stage. The amount to be paid can be assessed by the court or a costs judge.

Generally judges when assessing costs have an absolute discretion as to what, if anything, should be paid. But the normal expectation is that a successful party in a case will have their costs (or most of them) paid by the unsuccessful party. Costs in children cases are rare. In public interest judicial review cases a claimant can be protected from having to pay costs if they lose but way of a protective costs order.

NB. Costs (which are generally payable between the parties) are to be distinguished from funding (which is paid to the lawyers by the client or someone else supporting the litigation).