The Federal Circuit Court in Sydney has introduced the ‘Discrete Property List’ designed to streamline matters that are for financial orders only.
The purpose of this is to promote a just resolution of disputes with minimum delay and expense.
Previously, property cases have been listed before a judge of the Federal Circuit Court on the first date that it is in court.
After these changes are implemented. the Sydney Federal Circuit Court will now list these matters before Registrars in what will be called the Discrete Property List.
Discrete Property List
The discrete property list is a special type of listing for cases where applications to the Court are for financial orders only.
It is not for matters that are:
- Cases where parenting orders are sought, or
- Where parenting and property orders are sought together;
- Child support cases;
- Contravention applications.
The main difference is that instead of being listed before a Judge, the case will be listed before a Registrar.
The ‘discrete property list’ has been created to more closely monitor compliance with orders for production of documents and valuations. Importantly, the idea of it is to reduce delays in getting financial cases through the dispute resolution process. Further, it will free up further judicial resources for parenting matters and help speed things up through the courts.
The courts hope that the list will also promote dispute resolution outcomes through close involvement in preparation and case management of the case before a mediation or conciliation conference is scheduled.
Cases can still be referred to a Judge if there are urgent interim issue or if dispute resolution processes have been unsuccessful.
Tighter Case Management
It appears that the Courts are trying to implement a stronger case management system and not send matters to mediation before they are ready.
The Courts have made it clear that Orders for dispute resolution will not be made automatically on the first Court date.
Parties will first have to satisfy the Registrar running the discrete property list that financial disclosure and expert valuations, are completed. Orders for lawyers (or parties) to nominate 3 experts or valuers will be discouraged. The Orders may be made, however submissions would need to address why legal practitioners could not agree on an expert on the day.
Legal representatives and all parties must be present on the first Court date, unless leave is given to attend by telephone.
90 Day Turnaround
Registrars have been told to keep matters in the property list for a targets period of 90 days from the first court date. After that time, the Registrar will likely refer the case to the Docket Judge for Judicial case management.
The expectation is that completion of valuations and exchange of documents will occur within four weeks. The parties (or their legal representatives) are at liberty to write a joint letter to the Registrar seeking consent orders in chambers.
In the event that Orders have been made and complied with, all of the expert evidence filed and dispute resolution process undertaken, and the matter has not resolved, then the case will be referred to the Docket Judge for Judicial Case Management.
Conciliation conferences will no longer be the default position for property matters. To request a conciliation conferences, you will need to explain in the discrete property list why it is not possible for the parties to use their own resources to pay for a mediator, and, if one party cannot pay, why the other cannot pay in the first instance with the costs to be characterised by the trial judge, or an adjustment made for the mediator’s costs in the final settlement
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.