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Federal Circuit Court of Australia – Recent Changes to Conduct of Property Proceedings – Priority Property Pools Under $500,000 – Costs Efficient Procedures

17/08/2020

During the course of 2020 the Federal Circuit Court of Australia has taken two initiatives to streamline the manner in which it conducts and concludes property proceedings.  The aim of the initiative is to reduce costs and the complexity of the conduct of financial cases to and increase the speed and reduce the time in which cases are finalised.

In the Sydney Registry the Federal Circuit Court now conducts the Discreet Property List. 

In the Parramatta, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne Registries as from 1 March 2020 the Court has introduced the “Priority Property Pool 500” (PPP500) case list. 

When Will a Case be a Priority Case? 

In cases where the Applicant is seeking property orders only (that is – no parenting orders are sought) and the net value of the property of the parties (including Superannuation) does not:

  • Exceed $500,000; and
  • Does not include such assets as Family Trusts, Companies or Self-Managed Superannuation Funds;

then the case will be a PPP500 case and will proceed as a priority case. 

Streamlined Procedure for Commencement

Property cases in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia are commenced by the filing of an Initiating Application supported by an Affidavit in Support and a Financial Statement.  The drafting and preparation of these documents can be time consuming and complex.  The PPP500 list has deferred some of the requirements.  In the PPP500 list proceedings are commenced without the requirement for the filing of an Affidavit or a Financial Statement. 

The commencement of the proceedings is faster and simpler and more cost effective.  The case is initiated by the filing of an Application (only) and the standard Financial Statement form.  The Federal Circuit Court may after the parties have participated in Mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution when the matter returns to the Federal Circuit Court, order the filing of an Affidavit and Financial Statement.  The rationale behind the dispensation with the filing of an Affidavit and Financial Statement is to reduce expenses and to direct parties to alternative dispute resolution outside the Court system.

How will the Case Proceed?

Matters in the PPP500 list will commence with the filing of an Initiating Application and a Standard Financial Statement (only) – No Affidavit and Financial Statement is required to be filed at this stage. 

There are 6 steps in a PPP500 case the first of 4 which are carried out by a regulation (not a Judge). 

Registrar-led Phase

  • Step 1:          Before the first Court date – preliminary orders will be made by the Registrar in Chambers without the need for the parties to attend in person.
  • Step 2:          First Court date before a registrar – the balance sheet will be settled and the case will be referred to a Conciliation Conference, private Mediation or Legal Aid Conference. 
  • Step 3:          Alternative Dispute Resolution (with a Registrar, external Mediator or Legal Aid Conference). 
  • Step 4:          Second Court date (if the case did not settle, the balance sheet will be checked and the case will be referred to the Judge). 

If the matter does not settle then the case will enter the Judge-led phase. 

  • Step 5:          Procedural hearing before a Judge.  The Judge will make Order for preparation for Final Hearing.  
  • Step 6:          Final Hearing.  The Judge will hear the case and make a final decision. 

At Watson & Watson our highly experienced Family Law Solicitors can provide advice and assist you in navigating your financial/property settlement and if you meet the PPP500 criteria, we can utilise the Discreet Property List now available through the Federal Circuit Court of Australia which offers a cost effective and efficient process to what often times, can be a taxing experience.

This is only a preliminary view and is not to be taken as legal advice without first contacting Watson & Watson Solicitors on 9221 6011.

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