The Court’s Priority to Small Property Settlements
On 1 March 2020, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia introduced a pilot program for small property claims in the Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Paramatta registries. The program is called the Priority Property Pool List (‘PPP500 List’). The purpose of the program is to provide a simplified way to resolve small property claims (with the emphasis on early resolution) so to limit the legal costs for parties and ensure that their small pool is preserved as much as possible.
What is a Small Property Pool?
For this program, the Federal Circuit Court has identified a small property pool to be a case where the total property of the parties is likely to be $500,000 or less. The parties must be seeking only property alteration orders. This includes the parties’ assets, liabilities and superannuation. For example, if you own a house worth $400,000 with a mortgage of $300,000 and each have $50,000 in superannuation, your total property pool would be $200,000 and you would be eligible to apply in the PPP500 List.
However, there are some matters which may have a total value of less than $500,000 but would be excluded from the list. These include cases which have entities (such as trusts, companies or self-managed superfunds) in their pool or where you are also seeking parenting, child support or enforcement orders.
How a PPP500 case runs
Generally speaking, when a property claim is commenced, parties are required to file an Initiating Application, an Affidavit and a Financial Statement. These documents are lengthy and take significant time to prepare.
Parties who commence proceedings which are commenced in the PPP500 list are only required to file an Initiating Application and PPP500 Financial Summary Form. The PPP500 Financial Summary Form is user friendly and able to be completed with ease by the parties themselves which assists in reducing legal fees.
Once a party has filed in the PPP500 List, a Registrar will review the Application and make Orders in Chambers to ensure the matter is progressing before the parties even reach the first Court date. These Orders can provide for the filing of a Response by the other party, for the exchange of financial disclosure, to discuss a suitable dispute resolution pathway, any experts required and for the parties to advise the superannuation fund of any potential split of superannuation which may take place.
It is the Court’s expectation that prior to the first Court event, the parties have complied with the first set of Orders so to progress the matter as swiftly as possible. At the first Court date, the parties are required to be in a position to inform the Court of a suitable dispute resolution process such as a mediation, Legal Aid Conference or Conciliation Conference. The matter will then proceed to dispute resolution.
If the matter does not settle at dispute resolution, at the second Court event, the Court expects that disclosure and valuations have been completed along with an agreed balance sheet being prepared. The Registrar may engage in discussions with the parties at this Court event about the merits of their case and test their positions.
If the matter cannot settle, the matter will be transferred to a Judge and listed for a trial or a simplified trial. A simplified trial involves the parties filing material and the Court determining the matter on the papers as opposed to directing the parties to an in-person hearing.
Ramsden Lawyers & Prioritising small claims
The Court has recognised the importance of assisting parties to preserve their asset pools especially where the pool is small. It is important that parties are able to access a pathway to resolve their matter and incur fees relative to their assets. Even if your property pool is small, there are significant risks involved if you elect not to formalise your property settlement. It is important that this is attended to a matter of priority following the breakdown of your relationship or marriage.
If you wish to pursue a property settlement claim where the total assets are less than $500,000, contact us on 1300 749 709 to discuss the options available to you. Our family law team would love to assist you in reaching a speedy and cost effective resolution to your property settlement matter.