The Court has a streamlined case management pathway for cases which meet the criteria set out in this document. They are called Priority Property Pool Cases (PPP Cases).
Based on the information contained in the Initiating Application (Family Law), this case has been provisionally identified as a PPP Case.
In these cases, the Court has two major goals:
- to find the simplest, quickest, and most cost-effective process to finalise the case, and
- to do as much as possible to maximise the physical and emotional safety of all parties at court and in dispute resolution.
This information is about applications for financial orders such as property settlement or spousal maintenance. It is for both the Applicant and the Respondent and may be attached to an order that has been made in chambers.
This brochure provides information about:
- Priority Property Pool Cases
- 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 'PPP Case'?
A case is considered a PPP Case when a party seeks that the Court makes only financial orders and:
- the net value of the property of the parties (excluding superannuation interests) is, or is likely to be, less than $550,000, 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, or
- the net value of the property of the parties is greater than $550,000 (excluding superannuation), and the Court is of the view that it is appropriate to designate the matter as a Priority Property Pool Case because:
- the net value of the property is not significantly greater than $550,000 (excluding superannuation) and there are no features of complexity, and
- the parties have or a party has a particular vulnerability. This may include the demographic features of the case, or allegations of family violence including coercive control, 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 meet the criteria above, a Judicial Registrar has made specific orders in chambers (that is, without requiring anyone’s attendance at court) to progress the matter. This brochure contains information on why this has occurred.
Why did the Court make this initial order without me?
The order that has been made, by a Judicial 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 it is safe to do so) 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 named in the order must follow it.
Who is looking after my PPP Case?
On the first court date, your case is listed before a Judicial Registrar. A Judicial Registrar is an officer of the Court with specialised qualifications and experience in family law, court procedure, and dispute resolution. A Judicial Registrar has delegated powers to make certain orders, including orders by consent and about how the matter will progress.
Your case is managed by the Judicial Registrar until the conclusion of the dispute resolution process. If the case does not resolve by agreement at that stage, the Judicial Registrar will refer the case to a judge for further consideration. A Judicial Registrar cannot 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 to an Initiating Application and the supporting documents referred to in the order. This must be filed and served in the timeframes set out in the Orders. There is information about how to do this on the Courts’ website at: www.fcfcoa.gov.au/hdi/file-response
- Each party must comply with any order including 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.
- Even if you can’t agree on the value of certain items of property before the first court date, you should, if it is safe to do so, try to agree on a valuer (or appropriate court expert) to be appointed to undertake a valuation. You should also give consideration to how any associated costs can be met.
- 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 and bring it to the first court event. 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 and you, or your legal representative, need to be ready to explain that to the Judicial Registrar.
- You may wish to seek some legal advice. Information on legal advice and assistance services can be found at the end of this document.
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, 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 6.06 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021.
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.
Unless the Court tells you otherwise, your first court event may occur via Microsoft Teams and you will be provided with a link in the days just before your court event. Information on attending electronic hearings is available at: www.fcfcoa.gov.au/attending-court/electronic-hearings
Unless otherwise excused or advised by the Court, you must attend all court events.
If you have a family member, friend or support person with you, they can accompany you into the virtual or physical courtroom, but they cannot speak on your behalf unless approved by the Judicial Registrar.
Note: Children under the age of 18 cannot enter any courtroom. The Court does not have child minding facilities.
Will I be at court all day?
The Court allocates a number of matters to each list. The list will have a designated start time and you should make arrangements to be available for the 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 Judicial Registrar in that list.
Your safety at court: a safety plan
If you have any concerns for your safety whilst attending any court event, conference or hearing it is important you let the Court know well before it is scheduled to occur. 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?.
You can inform the Court by:
- completing the online enquiry form at www.fcfcoa.gov.au/fl/enquiries/family-law-enquiry and selecting ‘I am making an enquiry about myself’ then ‘Safety at court’.
- using Live Chat at www.fcfcoa.gov.au/contact-us
- calling 1300 352 000.
A staff member 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 contact the Court at least five business days before any physical attendance at court 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 and an updated copy must be provided if the order changes or a new application is filed.
What will happen on the first court date?
Generally, on the first court date a case is listed before a Judicial 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 Judicial 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 for a hearing (which is a short hearing only about that issue). That may occur on the same day or another day depending on the issue, or
- make procedural orders about the steps each party must take to progress the matter.
Parties and their legal representatives will be expected to assist the Judicial Registrar to identify the issues and consider the most appropriate case management steps. This means preparation of the case for a private mediation, legal aid conference, arbitration, family dispute resolution, conciliation conference or other dispute resolution event.
A Judicial Registrar will not usually make orders for attendance at a dispute resolution event until valuations and exchange of documents are completed. It is important that both parties have enough information to negotiate meaningfully at a dispute resolution conference.
Before the Judicial Registrar’s list starts
Before entering the courtroom (virtual or physical), you should:
- watch the video, What to expect when attending a court hearing
- turn off other electronic equipment, including mobile phones
- remove hats and sunglasses, unless for medical or religious reasons, and
- follow the instructions provided to you by the Court.
Do not bring any food or drink into the virtual courtroom and keep your camera off and microphone on mute until your matter is called.
When the list starts
The associate or court officer will announce that the Court is in session when the Judicial Registrar enters the courtroom. You do not need to stand in a virtual courtroom, but you should stand on each occasion if you are attending in person. You can take your seat once the Judicial Registrar has sat down.
The way in which Judicial Registrars conduct the list will vary. Some Judicial 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 and you will be told when to rejoin the Microsoft Teams link or return to the courtroom. 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 Judicial Registrar may give you an opportunity (if it is safe to do so) to negotiate any urgent issues. 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, turn on your camera and microphone in a virtual courtroom, or move to the bar table if you are attending in person. Make sure you can clearly see, and be seen by, the Judicial Registrar. If you have concerns about your safety, you should communicate that in the way set out above prior to the start of the court event. You should address the Judicial Registrar as ‘Judicial Registrar’ or ‘Registrar’.
- address comments to other people in the courtroom
- point or use abusive language
- raise your voice or shout, or
- interrupt when the other party or the judicial 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 Judicial Registrar will rely on the evidence that has been filed in your case in the form of the Court documents.
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 Judicial 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 Judicial 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 judicial 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.
More information on going to court is available in the fact sheet Going to Court – tips for your court hearing and on the Courts’ website at: www.fcfcoa.gov.au/attending-court/etiquette-and-tips
What happens next?
This will depend on the orders made by the Judicial Registrar on the first court date. You need to comply with any orders made by the Judicial Registrar.
If necessary, the Judicial 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 Judicial 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 at: www.comcourts.gov.au. For more information see How do I eFile?
Documents you need to produce after the first court date
The Judicial 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 the second court date, and assuming valuations and exchange of financial documents are completed, the Judicial 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 Judicial 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 or listing the matter for an undefended hearing.
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 Judicial Registrar and ask them to make the orders by consent. Consent orders can be 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 Judicial 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 and you will need to provide enough information for the Judicial Registrar to be satisfied that the orders are just and equitable.
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 Pool Cases (PPP Cases) available on the Courts’ website.
More information about PPP Cases can be found on the Courts’ website: www.fcfcoa.gov.au/ppp
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 see: www.fcfcoa.gov.au/fl/fv/overview
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 at: www.fcfcoa.gov.au/pubs/fl/marriage-families-separation
The following are just some of the available services:
Family violence services
|National Domestic Violence Hotline||1800 799 7233||www.thehotline.org|
|1800 RESPECT||1800 737 732||www.1800respect.org.au|
|Mensline||1300 789 978||www.mensline.org.au|
|Not to Violence – Men’s Referral Service||1300 766 491||www.ntv.org.au|
|Lifeline||13 11 14||www.lifeline.org.au|
|Family Violence Law Help||www.familyviolencelaw.gov.au|
In an emergency call the police on 000.
Family Violence Law Help
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 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 PPP 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 at: 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 low or no 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 at: www.naclc.org.au
This fact sheet provides general information only and is not provided as legal advice. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia cannot provide legal advice.