The cost of litigation can range from substantial to enormous depending on the resources available to an individual party, the type of litigation and the length of time that litigation has been ongoing. Unfortunately, at the time that you may be considering filing an Application with the Court for an alteration of property interests it is hopefully because there are no longer any other viable options to progress your matter, and therefore the cost must be incurred to move on with your life.
Access to justice and the financial burden of litigation is an issue that the profession and Courts are acutely aware of and, in an attempt to assist particularly vulnerable parties, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“FCFCoA”) have implemented a pilot program called the Priority Property Pool List for property pools under $550,000 (“The PPP550 List”). The PPP550 List seeks to streamline the court pathway for those with modest pools under $550,000 (excluding superannuation), allowing parties to preserve as much wealth as possible while still having the assistance of the Court in a final determination.
Where does the PPP550 List operate?
Originally, the PPP550 List was only available to parties’ filing their Applications in four registries. Fortunately, and due to the success seen early on from the implementation of the PPP550 List, this has now been expanded across all Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia registries.
How does the PPP550 List differ?
When filing in the PPP550 List, the Court only requires a party to file an Initiating Application and PPP550 Financial Summary document rather than the usual Initiating Application, Financial Statement and Affidavit or Financial Questionnaire. In practical application, this means that those parties who are legally represented incur less cost in their solicitors preparing and filing their material.
Once the matter has been allocated to the PP550 List, the Court may make Orders for parties to exchange financial disclosure, conduct any necessary valuations and liaise as to a suitable dispute resolution process without the need for parties to first attend Court. The issuing of and compliance with these Orders in turn means that parties should be in a good position to settle most, if not all, issues in dispute at the First Court Event and agree on a value for each item in the property pool.
Should parties not settle their matter prior to or at the First Court Event, the Judicial Registrar will then likely make an Order for the parties to attend dispute resolution, which may include a court funded mediation which is called a Conciliation Conference.
Should your matter not settle during the dispute resolution process, your matter will be set down for a further court date immediately after the date of the dispute resolution so that the Judicial Registrar may keep your matter moving along at an expedited pace.
Will my matter qualify for the PPP550 List?
There are a few characteristics which will preclude a matter from being allocated to the PPP550 List, even where the parties net property pool is under $550,000. Those characteristics which will exclude a matter include:
- If there are any entities in the property pool (such as a company, family trust or self-managed superannuation fund) which will require a valuation;
- Where parties are simultaneously seeking parenting Orders; and
- Where parties are simultaneously seeking an enforcement Order.
If you are interested in learning more about the PP550 List, or want to know whether your matter may be suitable we are happy to help. Please contact our office and make an appointment.