Evaluation of the Small Claims Property Pilot

Content type

Family law and family separation

About the evaluation

The Australian Attorney-General’s Department is trialling a simpler and faster process for dividing property between separated couples. The Small Claims Property Pilot, also referred to as the Priority Property Pools under $500,000 (PPP500), is a new court-based model for resolving small value property matters of up to $500,000. AIFS has been commissioned to evaluate the pilot.

The pilot

The pilot aims to resolve post-separation property matters where the small value of the property makes it uneconomic for the parties to go through standard court processes.

The pilot will include two options for separating couples with small value property pools:

  • Registrar-led resolution – a Registrar can assist the couple to prepare and lodge enforceable consent orders with the court, reflecting the agreement reached between them.
  • Judge-led resolution – if the couple cannot reach an agreement between themselves, the matter will be allocated to a judge to determine the property division using a short form process, which may include dealing with the matter without a hearing.

The evaluation

Subject to the required ethical and research clearances, it is proposed that the evaluation will involve:

  • analysing administrative and court file data
  • conducting interviews with professionals and their clients
  • producing case studies.

There will also be a social return on investment analysis to measure the financial economic and social effects of the pilot.

Timeline and jurisdictions

The two-year pilot will run from 1 January 2020 (for applications filed from 1 March 2020) until 31 December 2021 in the Melbourne, Adelaide, Paramatta and Brisbane registries of the Federal Circuit Court.

The final evaluation report is due to the Australian Attorney-General’s Department in June 2022.

The pilot is one of two initiatives funded under the Women’s Economic Security Package. The other is the Lawyer-assisted Property Mediation: Legal Aid Commission Trial, which is also being evaluated by AIFS.