When a couple separates one of the most difficult things to do is work out the best and fairest way to divide the assets accrued during the relationship. This can sometimes be a fractious, drawn-out process, particularly where the financial arrangements of one or both parties are complex and multi-layered.
The Family Court of Australia has developed a means by which people with simpler financial arrangements can more efficiently and more quickly make a property settlement at a cost to the parties that is ‘reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances of the case’.
These are known as Priority Property Pool under $500,000 cases (’PPP500’). Separating couples can make a family law application by this method when the value of the net property of the parties (including superannuation interests) is (or appears to be) under $500,000; and there are no entities (such as a family trust, company, or self-managed superannuation fund) owned or in the effective control of either party that might require valuation or expert investigation.
A party seeking property orders under the PPP500 process should commence proceedings with the filing of an Initiating Application (Family Law), and a PPP500 Financial Summary. In addition, the application must have been filed in the Brisbane registry after 1 March 2020, invoking the jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
Consulting experienced family law specialists like Big Law can help save you time, money and stress in determining whether you have a PPP500 case in order to reach a family law property settlement with your ex.
Which family law situations do not qualify as PPP500 cases?
The Family Law Court has made it clear that the following family law matters do not qualify as PPP500 cases:
- Cases where parenting orders are sought;
- cases where parenting and financial (property and/or spousal maintenance or other financial) orders are sought together;
- child support and maintenance cases;
- contravention and enforcement (of parenting orders) applications.
What’s involved in the PPP500 process
Once a PPP500 application is made the case will first be managed by a Registrar who will ensure that both parties exchange relevant documents with a view to moving the matter to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process such as mediation at the earliest opportunity. Ideally, this process will help narrow and clarify the issues in dispute between the parties and prevent them from needing to go to court.
Registrar-led case management processes are expected to last no more than 90 days. If the ADR fails to produce an agreement after that period, the parties are informed that they can consent to a ‘less adversarial’ trial or a hearing on the papers in order to resolve the matter. This step is designed to use simpler court procedures in order to reduce time and cost for the parties to reach a settlement.
As a result, some elements of the Federal Circuit Court Rules are partially suspended for a PPP500 case. Specifically, the requirement to file an Affidavit and Financial Statement is waived until the Court directs a party to file an Affidavit or Financial Statement; or the ADR process fails and directions requiring the filing of an Affidavit and Financial Statement are made for trial.
Should the parties prefer a full, traditional trial, they will need to identify the issues in dispute and the evidence they have to support their claims.
The parties are at liberty to seek a final consent order at any time.
The discretion of the Court to classify a matter as a PPP500 case
Whether a party or parties to the family law matter identify their case as a PPP500 case or not, the Court may designate it a PPP500 case at any time, including after proceedings commence. When this occurs, the Court may make a direction before the first court date for the parties to file a PPP500 Financial Summary and exchange of financial documents.
There are significant advantages for those people whose family law matter qualifies as a PPP500 case. It offers more opportunities to settle at an early stage and avoid unnecessary stress, cost and delay. The involvement of a Court Registrar in the preparation and case management before the ADR process begins is a significant factor in helping the parties reach an agreement and avoid a drawn-out court process.
Let us help you
At Big Law, we have diverse experience in managing family law matters, including PPP500 cases. If the issues discussed in this article apply to your situation, please contact our Strathpine family lawyers today on 07 3112 7998 or email [email protected] and we can talk through your particular circumstances to work out whether this less stressful, time-saving way of reaching a family property settlement is right for you. That way you can move on with your life as soon as possible.