1.1 This Practice Direction applies to family law applications meeting the criteria set out in this Practice Direction and filed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court).
1.2 This Practice Direction applies to all proceedings that are defined as a Priority Property Pool Case (PPP Case).
1.3 It is to be read together with:
- the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (Family Law Act);
- the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 (Family Law Rules), where applicable;
- Guide for practitioners and parties in PPP Cases; and
- Family Law Practice Direction – Financial proceedings.
1.4 This Practice Direction applies to all proceedings commenced on or after 30 October 2023. This Practice Direction will also apply to all proceedings commenced prior to this date that had been included in the PPP500 Pilot, unless unfair or impractical to do so.
1.5 This Practice Direction revokes and replaces Family Law Practice Direction Priority Property Pools under $500,000.
2.1 The purpose of this Practice Direction is to achieve a just, efficient and timely resolution of PPP Cases, at a reasonable and proportionate cost to the parties in all the circumstances.
2.2 The purpose will be achieved by identifying and narrowing the issues in dispute and assisting the parties to undertake:
- Dispute Resolution at the earliest opportunity; and
- where Dispute Resolution is unsuccessful, providing an opportunity for a short-form expedited hearing or a hearing on the papers.
3. Requirements for a PPP Case
3.1 A PPP Case is defined as a proceeding commenced by way of an Initiating Application (Family Law) seeking alteration of property interests pursuant to section 79 of the Family Law Act or section 90SM of the Family Law Act (as may apply) and where:
- the net value of the property of the parties (excluding superannuation interests) is, or appears to be, under $550,000; or
- the net value of the property of the parties (excluding superannuation interests) is not significantly greater than $550,000 and:
- having regard to the relevant assets of the parties or either of them, the Court considers it appropriate to include the matter as a PPP Case; and/or;
- due to the parties or a party having a particular vulnerability including having regard to the location of the parties, demographic features of the parties, or allegations of family violence including coercive control, the Court considers it appropriate to include the matter as a PPP Case; and/or
- the Court, in its discretion, makes a declaration or notation that the proceeding is designated as a PPP Case.
3.2 PPP Cases may include matters where applications have been made for orders pursuant to either section 79 or section 90SM (property settlement) and:
- section 74 or section 90SE (spouse maintenance) and/or;
- section 77 or section 90G (urgent spouse maintenance).
3.3 Cases with the following features will not be a PPP Case:
- there are entities (such as a family trust, company, or self-managed superannuation fund) owned or in the effective control of either party where the value is contested and requires valuation or expert investigation;
- proceedings where only parenting orders are sought;
- proceedings where both parenting and financial (property and/or spousal maintenance) orders are sought;
- child support cases.
3.4 Each prospective party to the proceeding must comply with the pre-action procedures in Schedule 1 of the Family Law Rules, unless an exception in rule 4.01(2) applies. Those pre-action procedures require parties to take genuine steps to resolve the dispute before proceedings are instituted.
4. Commencing a PPP Case
4.1 Elements of the Family Law Rules are partially suspended for a PPP Case. In particular, the requirements to file an affidavit or Financial Questionnaire and a Financial Statement are waived until:
- the Court directs a party to file an affidavit, Financial Questionnaire or Financial Statement; or
- directions requiring the filing of further material are made in preparation for a Final Hearing, following unsuccessful Dispute Resolution event/s.
4.2 A party seeking financial orders where the net property of the parties, excluding superannuation interests is, or appears to be, under $550,000 should commence proceedings by filing:
- an Initiating Application (Family Law);
- a PPP Financial Summary; and
- a Genuine Steps Certificate, confirming the applicant’s compliance with the pre-action procedures listed in Schedule 1 of the Family Law Rules.
4.3 The PPP Financial Summary is an approved form for use in PPP Cases under rule 15.21 of the Family Law Rules.
4.4 Irrespective of whether the Applicant identifies the proceeding as a PPP Case at the time of filing, the Court may designate a PPP Case at any time, including before a Response to Initiating Application has been filed.
4.5 Where the Court designates a PPP Case after proceedings commence, the Court will make orders before the first Court date which may provide for:
- the parties to file a PPP Financial Summary;
- the exchange of financial documents, and
- procedural directions for the management of the PPP case.
5. Further information
5.1 For further information about PPP Cases, including the Guide for practitioners and parties in PPP Cases, parties should refer to the Court’s website at www.fcfcoa.gov.au.
The Honourable Justice William Alstergren
Chief Justice (Division 1) | Chief Judge (Division 2)
Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
Issued: 30 October 2023