20 Oct What are Priority Property Pools (“PPP500”) Cases?
With the merger of the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia on 1 September 2021 comes the new “small claim” pilot program for Priority Property Pools under $500,000. The new program seeks to provide a simplified way to resolve small property disputes in a cost effective and timely manner, whilst concurrently preserving the parties’ assets as much as possible.
Essentially, a PPP500 case is an application for alteration of property interests pursuant to section 79 or section 90SM of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), provided:
- The Court makes a declaration or notation that the proceeding is designated as a PPP500 case;
- The net property of the parties, including superannuation interests, is $500,000 or less;
- There are no entities owned or in the control of either party that might require valuation of expert investigation; and
- Neither party seeks orders in relation to parenting and/or Child Support.
By focusing on specific criteria and narrowing the issues in dispute, the program can reduce delays (and subsequent costs) and enable a streamlined approach to reach a just property settlement – inevitably encapsulating one of the leading principles behind the amalgamation of the Courts.
Pursuant to Schedule 1 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021, prospective parties to a proceeding must still comply with pre-action procedures (where it is safe to do so). If parties are unable to settle their dispute in this preliminary stage, proceedings are commenced by way of filing an Initiating Application alongside a Genuine Steps Certificate. Assuming the above criteria have been satisfied, a PPP500 Financial Summary (form) must accompany the application.
Differing from the standard procedural requirements for property proceedings and to give effect to the quicker and cheaper purpose of the program, PPP500 cases do not require filing of an affidavit, Financial Questionnaire and Financial Statement (unless otherwise ordered by the Court).
The program has a specialised case management process that comprises two limbs. The first limb is referred to as the ‘registrar- led resolution’ wherein the registrar assists parties to reach an agreement in the shortest possible time and in the most cost- effective manner. Before the first court date, the Judicial Registrar may make orders for disclosure, valuation, Alternative Dispute Resolution and any other requirements deemed necessary in an attempt to settle the dispute and keep the matter out of court.
If the matter cannot be resolved in the first limb, it will then progress to the second limb, referred to as the Judge-led phrase. This comprises of a Procedural and Final Hearing. It is expected that parties make a genuine effort to resolve their dispute before progressing to this stage, as it ultimately threatens the preservation of the parties’ already limited assets.
Written by: Sarra Davis