Skip to main content

Pilot program to save time and money for separating couples

Media Release

A simpler and more cost-effective process to help separating couples divide their property assets will be trialled in four Federal Circuit Court Registries from January 2020.

The Small Claims Property Pilot will run for two years in Brisbane, Parramatta, Adelaide and Melbourne and will provide a streamlined court service to couples with property pools under $500,000.

The project is funded under the Morrison Government's Women's Economic Security Package and aims to ensure families do not exhaust their limited assets on legal expenses.

The locations were selected following advice from the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, the Hon William Alstergren. The pilot project will be designed and run by the Federal Circuit Court, with an independent evaluation to be conducted at the end of next year.

"The Coalition Government recognises that the economic consequences of separation can be significant and is committed to ensuring the family law system supports efficient, safe and equitable outcomes for families," Attorney-General Christian Porter said.

"Property cases make up over half of all new family law cases filed in the Family Court and a third of all family law cases filed in the Federal Circuit Court each year. By reducing the workload on those courts, it's hoped wait times can also be reduced for families with more complex cases."

Further portfolio measures funded under the Women's Economic Security Package to assist couples and families to resolve property disputes include:

  • a two-year trial of lawyer-assisted mediation run by Legal Aid Commissions in each state and territory to support families with asset pools up to $500,000 (excluding debt) to resolve property disputes, and;
  • additional funding to Family Relationship Centres across Australia to assist families reach agreement about property division.

These measures respond to recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs' report: A Better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence, as well as reports by the Victorian Women's Legal Service and the Australian Law Reform Commission.

Further information is available at Supporting women to recover financially after separation page.