As part of the 2023-24 Federal Government Budget released last night, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) (the Courts) have been provided funding for two key measures:
- the national expansion of the highly successful pilot dealing with financial disputes between parents with smaller amounts of assets of under $500,000 (known as the Priority Property Pools under $500,000 or PPP500), and
- to employ mediators and Court Child Experts to provide dispute resolution services for Hague Child Abduction Convention cases.
The Chief Justice of the Courts, the Hon Will Alstergren AO said that the provision of funding for the expansion of PPP500 and for the extension of family dispute resolution opportunities to Hague Child Abduction Convention cases is an extremely positive step forward. “The Courts remain grateful to the Attorney-General and the Commonwealth Government for their support of the Courts and the provision of this funding,” Chief Justice Alstergren said.
The PPP500 has been operating as a pilot since March 2020 in four locations (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Parramatta). It provides a simplified way of resolving property disputes that involve net asset pools of $500,000 or less (including superannuation). It prioritises the minimisation of risk and legal costs, as well as preservation of the parties’ assets.
Ongoing funding of $7.6 million annually will provide for the continuation and national expansion of the program, making it available nationally in 14 registries from July 2023.
“Funding to facilitate the national expansion of the PPP500 will enable more people, who have small property pools, to have their matter resolved in a just, efficient and timely manner, at a cost to the parties that is reasonable and proportionate to the circumstances of the case,” Chief Justice Alstergren said.
Data from an evaluation of the pilot by the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ concluded that the PPP500 Pilot was an efficient way of assisting parties with modest property pools to resolve post-separation financial matters. It found that the social return on investment was, for every $1 invested in PPP500, $3.88 of social value was generated for the PPP500 Pilot stakeholders. Most of the social value was generated for parties (95%).
The Courts’ Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar, Mr David Pringle, said that, “the funding provides for specialised and skilled resources to enable a cost effective way to ensure all aspects of family violence (including coercive control) are addressed. The evaluation recognised the valuable role of Judicial Registrars in the Courts and that the Registrar-managed limb of the Pilot operated effectively to support vulnerable and disadvantaged parties, including those affected by family violence and who have ongoing safety concerns.”
The ongoing funding from 1 July 2023 provides for the equivalent of 40 family law positions, including Judicial Registrars and their support staff, together with capital for necessary office and mediation facilities.
New funding has also been provided in the 2023-24 Budget in child abduction matters to make safe and effective alternative dispute resolution opportunities available at an early stage of the process with the aim of diverting families from contested proceedings under the 1980 Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Convention).
Ongoing funding of $0.9m annually will be provided for this initiative commencing 1 January 2024. It provides funding equivalent to 4 family law positions, including 2 mediators, to deliver effective alternative dispute resolution services nationally, and 2 Court Child Experts to provide early child welfare assessments and attend alternative dispute resolution sessions in appropriate cases.
Director – Media & Public Affairs, Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
m. 0409743 695 e. firstname.lastname@example.org