Offers of settlement (sections 117 and 117C)
Section 117 of the Family Law Act provides generally that “each party to proceedings under this Act shall bear his or her own costs” unless “the court is of the opinion that there are circumstances that justify” otherwise. Subsection 117(2A) sets out considerations relevant to questions about such circumstances. These include considerations relating to parties’ financial circumstances, parties’ conduct, prior compliance, success (in terms of what each party asked the court to do) and whether written settlement offer(s) have been made.
Section 117C also provides in relation to settlement offers and orders for payment of costs.
In a family law context, written settlement offers are often generally referred to as section 117C offers.
A written offer (especially a reasonable one made early in a matter) can promote settlement because it raises the possibility that the party receiving the offer may be ordered to pay the other party’s costs (or part of them) if the offer is not accepted and if the matter proceeds to a court decision. The wording of offers can be very important.