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Written by Michelle Richardson

On 1 March 2020, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia introduced a streamlined Court process to assist parties resolve their property dispute called the “Priority Property Pools under $500,000 Cases” or ‘PPP500 Cases’.

A PPP500 case is a case where:

  • 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.

Note, that if a matter is already before the Court, the Court can make a declaration or notation that the case be designated as a PPP500 case.

A PPP500 caserelates solely to a property settlement and cannot include any of the following:-

  • 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 cases;
  • Child maintenance cases;
  • Contravention applications; and
  • Enforcement applications

The purpose of PPP500 cases is to identify and narrow the issues in dispute early and assist the parties to undertake Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) at the earliest opportunity, which is usually in the form of mediation. To assist in that regard, PPP500 cases are subject to simplified procedures, different forms and more intensive case management from the Court. For example, the Court closely monitors the parties’ compliance with orders for production of documents and valuations.

If matters are not resolved at mediation, the case goes back before the Court where the Registrar finalises the parties’ Balance Sheet (the list of assets, liabilities and superannuation) and refers the matter to a Judge for a procedural hearing and then, if necessary, for a final hearing to determine the matter. The Judge will decide whether the final hearing can be heard by reading the parties’ documents, without an appearance being required or whether there is an opportunity for what we call a “less adversarial trial”.

By introducing PPP500 cases, the Court hopes that matters can be resolved in a relatively short period of time (3 months) without the need for protracted Court proceedings and high costs for the parties involved.

A useful, easy to read summary as to the Court procedure is shown below:-