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“Small claim” property cases under $500,000

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) has a pilot program designed to assist with managing “small claim” property cases under $500,000. The Priority Property Pools Under $500,000 (PPP500) program is designed to provide a more simplified, accessible, and timely approach to the resolution of family law property disputes.

Why was the PPP500 pilot been introduced?

The PPP500 List is designed to improve the safety, health and economic prosperity of vulnerable parties who are required to engage with the family law system to finalise their property settlements following separation. The intention is that the FCFCOA will apply a simplified trial process for the resolution of small property matters through the provision of further and earlier opportunities for parties to engage in alternate dispute resolution and eliminate unnecessary and multiple court appearances.

Additionally, the pilot is aimed at alleviating economic hardship and stress in circumstances where there is an imbalance in bargaining power between parties. One of the PPP500 List’s objectives is to provide accessible and timely resources to victims of family violence including with a focus on victims of economic abuse who are at risk of having the Court processes and delays used against them in the continuation and perpetuation of that family violence.

Which cases are eligible for the list?

To be eligible for the pilot PPP500 List, a matter must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. The net property pool (including superannuation) of the parties is equal to or less than $500,000; and
  2. There are no entities (e.g., family trust, self-managed superfund) owned by either party that might require valuation or expert investigation; and
  3. Neither party in the proceedings is seeking orders other than for a property settlement including any order with respect to enforcement or child support.

How is the PPP500 List being managed?

There are two key components to the management of PPP500 cases. These include:

  1. Registrar-led resolution where a Court Registrar will assist parties to reach an agreement, in the shortest possible time.
  2. Short-form Judge-managed PPP500 List where a judge will apply procedurally simpler processes in the lead up to a final hearing.

How does the PPP500 List benefit litigants?

The PPP500 List is expected to greatly assist with the FCFCOA’s management of matters where there are limited resources available to the parties and where family violence is creating a barrier to one party having access to a fair property settlement. Litigants are expected to benefit from the following features of the PPP500 List:

  • Greater opportunities for parties to settle at an early stage through the engagement of alternative dispute resolution including through cutting down on delays and providing more control to the parties to engage in this process.
  • Reductions in the number of mandatory court appearances.
  • Enhanced ability for parties to access judicial decisions through the specific management of “small claim” matters that do not get lost in the Court delays.

Ultimately, the PPP500 pilot provides an opportunity for the early detection of vulnerable parties who have financial barriers preventing them from leaving violent and controlling relationships and provides them with access to the FCFCOA for a property settlement which is both cost and time efficient.

The PPP500 pilot commenced  on 1 March 2020 in FCFCOA registries in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Paramatta.

By Nicholes Family Lawyers


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