In property settlement disputes between separating couples, a major concern is the complexity of court proceedings and the amount of legal costs they will be paying to work through the process in the Family Court. These concerns are intensified when there is only a small asset pool in dispute.
There is now some relief for separating couples with only a small asset pool for property division. The Family Court of Western Australia is instituting a new pathway from 1 October 2023 called “Priority Property Pool under $500,000” or “PPP500” in short, where there is now a quicker and more cost-effective pathway to resolve property settlement disputes for couples with a net asset pool under $500,000 (excluding superannuation). This is for both married and de facto couples going through a family law property settlement matter.
The aim of the PPP500 pathway is to achieve a just, efficient and timely resolution where the costs to the parties is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances of their case.
Benefits of the PPP500 pathway
A case that falls under the “PPP500” pathway will have the following benefits: –
- Simplified court documentation to be prepared and filed by the separating couple.
- Simpler court procedures for the parties: –
- To obtain procedural orders such as the exchange financial disclosure, valuation of assets and other procedural orders, within days of filing the court application.
- To attend a Conciliation Conference before a Registrar of the Family Court where the Registrar will assist the parties to attempt a resolution of the dispute by agreement. (A Conciliation Conference is a form of a court led mediation which provides the parties with the opportunity to make a genuine effort to settle their dispute by agreement.)
- To proceed to trial before a Magistrate of the Family Court where the Magistrate will determine the outcome of the dispute between the parties if no resolution by agreement can be reached. (A trial is the final hearing of the dispute before a judge where parties produce evidence of their case with the judge making a final determination of the matter.)
- Shorter time frames for court procedures. For example, the first listing of the case will be held within approximately 6 weeks from the time the case is filed and a Conciliation Conference is to be held within 90 days thereafter. This means that there is a chance for parties to attend a Conciliation Conference and attempt a resolution by agreement within 6 months from the date where the matter is first filed in the Family Court.
- Intensive monitoring of the parties’ compliance with orders and reminder correspondence from the court when orders have not been complied.
Criteria for a PPP500 Case
The criteria to qualify of this new pathway is as follows: –
- The total net property of both parties must be $500,000 or less, excluding superannuation entitlements. So, if the value of the separating couple’s home, cars, bank deposits and other assets total no more than $500,000 after deducting all liabilities (such as mortgage and personal loans, credit card debts and tax and other liabilities), then the matter will fall within this pathway. This excludes the value of superannuation entitlements. Hence, if your superannuation entitlements bring the total net property pool to more than $500,000, it does not matter, and the separating parties will still qualify to proceed under the “PPP500” pathway.
- There are no entities or assets that might require expert valuation or investigation such as companies, trusts, Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSF) or businesses.
- There are no elements of complexity in the dispute such as injunctions being sought or third-party interests in the separating parties’ assets.
- The Family Court declares that the proceeding is designated a “PPP5000” case.
Matters which will make a case fall outside the PPP500 pathway
A case will not fall under the PPP500 pathway for property division if it involves any of the following matters: –
- There are proceedings where both financial and parenting orders are sought.
- There are child related disputes between the parties and parenting orders are sought.
- There are child support or child maintenance matters in dispute.
- There are contravention or enforcement applications.
- Any element of complexity such as: –
- There are claims against the parties’ assets by third parties.
- There are assets located overseas.
- There are “de facto jurisdictional” issues, for example one party submitting that the parties were not in a de facto relationship as alleged by the other party.
- There are complex factual issues in dispute, for example domestic violence and its impact on a party’s life and ability to work.
If any of the above matter arises or if there are any other complexity, the Family Court can make a declaration that the proceeding is no longer designated a “PPP500” case.
For all enquiries on property splitting orders, superannuation splitting or the new PPP500, please get in touch with the family lawyers at Robertson Hayles Lawyers at (08) 9325 1700 or by email at email@example.com or via our contact form, and we will be happy to assist you.