The Court has introduced a new case management pathway called Priority Property Pools under $500,000 cases (PPP500 cases).
Certain cases are selected to undergo this special case management pathway to ensure a simpler, quicker and cheaper finalisation of the matter.
Based on the information contained in your Initiating Application (Family Law), your case has been provisionally identified as a PPP500 case.
This brochure provides information about:
- Priority Property Pools under $500,000 and your case
- what to expect on the first court date and when attending court
- the process that will apply until any dispute resolution is completed, and
- details about support services available including family violence and legal aid.
It is important that you read this information so you can try and develop a plan or a list of things to be done in order to progress your case. You don't need to read it all at once - you can work through it in sections.
What is a 'PPP500 Case'?
A case is considered a PPP500 case when:
- the net property of the parties or of each of them (including superannuation interests) is, or is likely to be, less than $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, and
- neither party in the proceedings seeks orders:
- for parenting or any other order pursuant to Part VII of the Family Law Act
- pursuant to the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 and/or the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 , or
- by way of an enforcement of an order or obligation whether a parenting or financial obligation.
Because your case could be a PPP500 case, a judge or a registrar has made special orders in chambers (that is, without requiring anyone’s attendance. See page 2 of this brochure for information on why this has occurred). The orders are attached to this brochure.
Why did the Court make this initial order without me?
The order that has been made by a judge or registrar in chambers is designed to:
- help each party identify the issues in dispute.
- clear up any issues about disclosure of property or financial resources as early as possible, and
- start a conversation between the parties (where safe) about:
- what the appropriate dispute resolution process should be
- what expert assistance is required (such as a valuer) to resolve disputes about the value of property (such as a house), and
- resolving any urgent interim matters by agreement.
This will allow a faster resolution of your matter.
When an order is made each person bound by the order must follow it.
Who is looking after my PPP500 case?
All PPP500 cases are allocated a docket judge who has ultimate responsibility for the management of the case.
On the first Court date, your case is listed before a registrar. A registrar is an officer of the Court, with specialised qualifications and experience in family law, court procedure, and dispute resolution. A registrar has delegated powers to make certain orders.
Your case is managed by the registrar, in consultation with the docket judgeas needed, until the conclusion of the dispute resolution process. If the case does not resolve by agreement the registrar refers the case to the docket judge for further consideration. A registrar cannot hear and determine your case on a final basis.
Preparing for your first Court date
If you are the respondent, you must file and serve a Response and the supporting documents referred to in the order. This must be filed and served within 28 days of you being served with the application material.
Each party must comply with the order for the filing of material and exchange of documents.
A failure to comply may result in an immediate referral of the case to a judge, and/or the making of a costs order.
Note: Tax returns and assessments may be obtained from MyGov or by contacting the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) at www.ato.gov.au . The ATO will also be able to provide you with an integrated client account statement.
MyGov also contains records of your superannuation. If you know who your superannuation provider is you should be able to obtain an up-to-date electronic statement directly from them.
If you can’t agree on the value of certain items of property, you can agree on a valuer (or appropriate Court expert) to be appointed to undertake a valuation.
You can also agree on exactly what other financial documents need to be exchanged to ensure that each party is satisfied that the other has made full and frank disclosure.
If you agree on most items, you can put together a Balance sheet. The Court may place this on file (subject to some conditions).
Even if you think that your dispute cannot be settled with the other party, it is important that you have some idea of the steps needed to progress the case.
You may wish to seek some legal advice. Information on legal advice and assistance services can be found on page 9.
Duty to make full and frank disclosure
The duty to make full and frank disclosure is a requirement for you to tell the Court, and the other party, all information about your finances, whether from your marriage (or de-facto relationship) or not, and whether acquired before, during or after your marriage (or de-facto relationship).
It includes all of your financial circumstances post-separation and continues up until the date of hearing. The duty is described in rule 24.03 Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 .
In summary, the duty to make full and frank disclosure includes telling the Court and the other party about:
- any property you own, whether in your name or together with anyone else
- any property that may be coming into your name
- any income you receive
- your financial resources
- any trust or company or partnership that:
- you are in control of
- you have been in control of
- you are entitled to take control of, or have (or have had) indirect control over
- you have received a benefit from, such as a distribution of income or capital
- you are entitled to receive a benefit from (even if you have not received one), such as a distribution of income or capital
- any superannuation you have
- any shares you have
- if you are (or have been) a director of a company
- any property you have disposed of (including selling, gifting, transferring or assigning) since separation.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of court events are being conducted electronically, which may vary some of the following information about how the court list will be conducted. You will be advised of arrangements if your matter will be conducted electronically.
You must attend Court unless otherwise excused or advised by the Court. In unusual or exceptional circumstances, you can appear by telephone. If you want to attend by phone, you must make an application to the Court using the Telephone/Video link attendance request form available on the Court’s website.
If you have a family member, friend or support person, with you, they can accompany you into the courtroom but they cannot sit with you at the bar table, or speak on your behalf, unless approved by the registrar.
Note: Children under the age of 18 cannot enter the courtroom. The Court does not have child minding facilities.
Will I be at Court all day?
Make arrangements to be at Court all day. How long you spend at Court will depend on whether or not agreement is reached in your case, and the number of other cases before the registrar (or a judge) on that day.
Your safety at Court: A Safety Plan
If you have any concerns for your safety, it is important you let the Court know well before the day your Court event, conference or hearing is scheduled. The Court can develop a safety plan for your attendance at Court. More information is available in the brochure Do you have fears for your safety when attending court?, available on the Court’s website.
You can inform the Court by:
- using Live Chat at www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/livechat
- emailing email@example.com, or
- calling 1300 352 000.
You can discuss your concerns with a staff member. They will ask you a few questions and discuss what arrangements are needed to enable you to participate in court events safely.
Where possible, you should call at least five business days before your court event so arrangements can be made for your safety. When attending Court, please tell the associate or court officer about any safety issues.
If there is an existing family violence order it should be provided to the Court as soon as possible.
What will happen on the first Court date?
Generally on the first Court date a case is listed before a registrar to:
- identify and clarify the issues in dispute, and
- promote a settlement of the dispute.
If the dispute cannot be settled on a final basis procedural orders and directions about the conduct of the proceedings will be made to reduce the issues to be determined at the hearing.
The Court may order:
- exchange of copies of any outstanding financial documents, and
- appointment of expert(s) to value any items of property where the value is not agreed.
If values of items are agreed, then the Court may record those values. The Court may also grant a very short adjournment period (of around four to six weeks) to allow any outstanding financial disclosure and valuations to be completed.
On the first day you attend Court, the registrar may:
- approve proposed consent orders, either on an urgent (temporary or interim) or final basis
- if there is an urgent issue, refer the case to a judge to conduct a hearing (which is a short hearing only about that issue). A judge might be available on that same day or another day, or
- make procedural orders (see further information below).
Parties and their legal representatives will be expected to assist the registrar to identify the issues and consider the most appropriate case management pathway. This means preparation of the case for a private mediation, legal aid conference, arbitration, family dispute resolution, conciliation conference or other dispute resolution intervention.
A registrar will not usually make orders for attendance at a dispute resolution process until valuations and exchange of documents are completed.
Before the Registrar’s list starts
The Court allocates a number of cases in each list. If you are attending Court in person, you will find the list of cases outside the courtroom. Once you find your case, find the courtroom and wait near the door. A court officer will come outside and call the matters. Tell the court officer the name of your case and whether you are the applicant or respondent. If you want to speak to the duty lawyer from legal aid, also let the associate or court officer know.
After you have given your appearance to the Court officer they will either ask you to wait outside the courtroom or ask you to sit in the back of the courtroom until your matter is called.
Before entering the courtroom you should:
- turn off all electronic equipment, including mobile phones, and
- remove hats and sunglasses, unless for medical or religious reasons.
Do not bring any food or drink into the courtroom.
When the list starts
The associate or court officer will announce ‘All rise’ or ‘All stand’ when the registrar enters or leaves the courtroom. You should stand on each occasion.
The way in which registrars conduct the list will vary. Some registrars may call through the list alphabetically or in numerical order. Others may ask for cases to be ‘stood down’ and deal with consent cases or applications for adjournment first. If you are unsure, ask the associate or court officer before the list starts.
If your case is ‘stood down’ it will be put on hold for a short time. The Court will deal with your case later in the day.
This gives you an opportunity to negotiate, define the issues in dispute and possibly reach an agreement with the other party. This is different from an ‘adjournment’. If your case is adjourned, it will be postponed to another day.
The registrar may give you an opportunity (if it is safe to do so) to negotiate any urgent issues, before referring any urgent issues to a judge. If you have not (yet) reached agreement on a valuer or valuer(s), or particular financial documents to be exchanged, your case is likely to be stood down to allow negotiations to occur.
Procedure in the courtroom
When your case is called, go to the bar table and tell the registrar who you are. Do not walk in front of the bar table or approach the registrar on the bench. You should address the registrar as ‘Registrar’.
At the bar table, you should stand when you are speaking to the registrar or when they are speaking to you.
- address comments to other people in the courtroom
- point or use abusive language
- raise your voice or shout
- interrupt when the other party or the registrar is talking, even if you disagree with what they are saying – you will be given an opportunity to tell your side of the story.
Usually, the registrar will rely on the evidence that has been filed in your case.
You are likely to be given an opportunity to agree on a valuer or valuer(s) of property in dispute. If you cannot agree, the registrar might choose one. If you have a preferred valuer, you should file affidavit evidence of the qualifications and experience of the valuer, and that valuer’s fees.
If necessary, the registrar will make orders about who pays for the valuation(s) and who should file a copy of the valuation. If there is a dispute about how a valuation will be organised, a registrar can make orders about who, and how, a valuer is instructed. It may be as simple as writing to the valuer and providing a copy of the Court order.
Will my case end up before a Judge on the first Court date?
This is a matter for the registrar. There are three main reasons why your case might end up before a judge:
- If you or the other party have failed to comply with the rules (for example by not filing a response).
- If you or the other party have not complied with Court orders (for example orders for production of documents or obtaining valuations).
- If there is an urgent issue that can only be decided by a judge. Any genuinely urgent issues (that cannot be resolved by consent) will be referred to the docket judge for consideration. This may not occur on the same day as the first Court date, although every effort will be made to do so.
What happens next?
This will depend on the orders made by the registrar on the first Court date. You need to comply with any orders made by the registrar.
If necessary, the registrar will make orders about who pays for the valuation(s) and who should file a copy of the valuation.
If there is a dispute about how a valuation will be organised, a registrar can make orders about who, and how, a valuer is instructed. It may be as simple as writing to the valuer and providing a copy of the Court order.
After a valuation is completed, you can ask the valuer to swear or affirm a short affidavit attaching their valuation. This document can then be filed electronically as an ‘affidavit’ using the Commonwealth Courts Portal – www.comcourts.gov.au .
Documents you need to produce after the First Court date
The registrar may make orders for any further specific documents that you need to exchange with the other party (but not file). The list will be either in the Court order or attached to the Court order.
Producing documents is different from your duty to make full and frank disclosure of all your financial information.
The next court date
On a second court date, and assuming valuations and exchange of financial documents are completed, the registrar will refer your case to a dispute resolution process. This could be family dispute resolution, mediation*, arbitration*, or, if appropriate, a conciliation conference.
If the other party fails to comply with an order
The registrar may make an order enabling either party to re-list the case simply by writing to the Court, explaining what the non-compliance is, and asking for the case to be re-listed.
A new Court date will be set, and, if there is non-compliance, the application will be referred to a judge for the making of other orders, including costs orders.
What happens if we reach an agreement?
Orders by Consent
If you and the other party reach an agreement on the day of a Court event, you can present the signed agreement to the registrar and ask them to make the orders by consent. Consent orders can be urgent (temporary or interim) or final.
What if final agreement is reached during the process?
If you and the other party agree on a final basis during the process, you can apply to a registrar for a final consent order to be made ‘in chambers’. You and the other party will need to sign detailed ‘minutes of proposed orders’ which must be in a form capable of being made an order of the Court.
Once both parties have signed, detailed instructions on how to obtain a final consent order in chambers are contained in the Guide for Practitioners and Parties in Priority Property Pools under $500,000 cases available on the Court's website.
Further information about PPP500 cases can be found on the Court's website: www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/ppp500
Information about Family Violence
Family violence means violent, threatening or other behaviour that coerces or controls a family member or causes them to be fearful (section 4AB Family Law Act 1975).
Protecting family members from violence and ensuring the safety of all people engaged in the family law system, including when attending Court, is a high priority for the Court.
For more information about how the courts deal with family violence go to: www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fccweb/family-law-matters/family-violence/family-violence
There are support services available to assist you. Support services includes family violence services, family and advocacy support services, legal advice and legal assistance services.
Information on other support services can be found in the Marriage, Families and Separation brochure: www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/marriagefamiliesseparation
The following are just some of the available services:
Family violence services
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1800 799 7233
1800 737 732
1300 789 978
Men’s Referral Service
1300 766 491
13 11 14
Family Violence Law Help
In an emergency call the police on 000.
Family Violence Law Help – www.familyviolencelaw.gov.au
A website by National Legal Aid for people affected by domestic and family violence. It was set up to promote each state and territory’s Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS) and to provide information and links to get help.
FASS – www.familyviolencelaw.gov.au/fass
FASS combines free legal advice and support for people affected by domestic and family violence and runs in each Australian state and territory. If you are worried about your safety at court or about going to court, please talk to your local FASS before your court date.
For PPP500 cases, legal aid organisations may be able to provide funding for (a) attendance at dispute resolution and/or (b) representation at Court. Contact your local legal aid now and find out if you are eligible for assistance. There are strict limits on eligibility for assistance which vary from state to state. National Legal Aid provides a list of state (and territory) legal aid offices. Visit their website: www.nationallegalaid.org/for-individuals
Other legal advice and assistance services
At some Court locations, a duty solicitor is available to provide legal advice. Assistance is not automatic and you must meet certain guidelines to be eligible. Non-legal support may also be available to help you on the day. For example, some Court locations have services that provide information, support and referrals.
A community legal centre may also be able to provide you with no or low cost legal advice and assistance. The National Association of Community Legal Centres can provide you with information about a community legal centre in your area. Visit their website for more information: www.naclc.org.au
This fact sheet provides general information only and is not provided as legal advice. The Federal Circuit Court of Australia cannot provide legal advice.