Simpler Court Process for Property Cases

12 NOV 2019


There is a lot of discussion, and upset, about the delay seen every day in the Family and Federal Circuit Courts. It can take up to two years for a matter to reach completion in the Court if it isn’t settled between the parties. This can be a stressful experience for families going through a separation, which is then compounded by the fees associated with a lengthy Court process.

Given the nature of family law matters, and how important a swift but just decision can be for allowing separating couples to move on, the Courts have begun to implement measures to minimise the timeline to a final decision.

The Sydney Registry of the Federal Circuit Court has implemented a Discrete Property List. That is, there is now a specific and streamlined avenue for family law matters that are only in relation to the division of property and do not deal with parenting issues.

The modified system is now that if a spouse files an application with the Federal Circuit Court to have their property matter dealt with, it will be placed on that list. The aim of the Discrete Property List is a reform which aims to resolve property settlements in a more efficient and cost effective way.

 In the Discrete Property List, they are adopting the following:

  1. On the first day, the property settlement case will be managed by a Registrar of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and not a Judge. A Registrar is an experienced family lawyer employed by the Court to assist Judges in managing cases. This reform means that Judges will have more capacity to hear urgent property cases or parenting cases.

  2. Before a Registrar will make an Order for parties to attend mediation or a conciliation conference, each party must satisfy the Registrar that they have complied with full and frank financial disclosure, and have nominated an expert valuer to value their property. Practitioners will no longer be allowed to propose a panel of three valuers and have the other choose one, which has previously been the normal course of action. This will incentivise parties to collaborate before the first court date and on the day of court, and means that less time and money is spent on deciding what assets should be worth.

  3. 90 Days Turnaround – The Registrar will manage a property matter within three months. This means that ideally, parties should have had a meaningful mediation, a chance to settle, and aid from the Court within three months from the first Court date.

The Discrete Property List reform is fantastic news for parties at the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. To have a matter carefully managed by a Registrar for three months, so that parties maximise their chance of an early settlement, will ensure happier outcomes for all litigants involved. It is also essential that parties are guided by experienced lawyers to ensure that they have all their ducks in a row on their first court date so that the chances of settling their matter will occur within those first three months.

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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