When a marriage comes to an end there will be many issues which need to be addressed one of which is the financial implications in the event of a divorce. It is hoped that financial matters can be resolved either through negotiation between the parties or their solicitors or via mediation. If financial matters cannot be resolved in this way however either party can apply to the court for a Financial Order, ultimately asking the court to make a decision with regard to the marital assets. Procedurally the proceedings are commenced by issuing a Form A indicating to the court what Orders are being sought. The case will then by timetabled whereby both parties shall have to comply with court directions, the first being that both parties must file at court and upon each other a detailed financial statement (Form E). The Form E provides full disclosure of both parties, financial means to assist the case in progressing. Following the exchange of Form E’s both parties then have the opportunity to raise questionnaires should they require clarification of the other party’s Form E or feel that it is deficient in some way. A Chronology and Statement of Issues must also be lodged at the court by both parties in preparation for the first court hearing.
The first court appointment is an administration appointment. The court will want to ensure that all evidence as outlined above has been filed and if any additional evidence is required directions will have to be sought at this stage. This includes seeking joint valuations of any properties in dispute if valuations cannot be agreed. Also Narrative Statements can be ordered by the court if there is a specific issue which requires further explanation than that which is contained within the Form E’s.
The case will then be listed for a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR). Prior to the FDR hearing the court is sent all offer letters which have passed between the parties and then at the FDR hearing detailed representations are made by both sides as to what settlement they are seeking and highlighting the points they wish the court to consider. The purpose of the FDR hearing is that the Judge who hears the case on this occasion listens to the representations, digests the evidence and offer letters which have passed and then provides their guidance as to how they would adjudicate the case if the matter were before them for a final hearing. It is hoped that this guidance will assist the parties and further negotiations however it should be noted that the Judge is simply giving their view on the case and at a final hearing a different Judge could very well come to a different decision.
If matters cannot be settled following the FDR hearing then the court will list the case for a final contested hearing. In these circumstances both parties shall give evidence and the Judge will make a final decision. It is possible to settle financial proceedings at any stage. In reality final contested financial proceedings are rare as the majority of cases settle prior to or at the FDR stage of proceedings.
In the event that settlement can be reached the terms of agreement can be incorporated into a Consent Order. Once a Consent Order has been approved by the court it will be legally binding and may protect both parties from any future financial claim.
Of course it is possible to settle financial matters without the necessity of costly lengthy court proceedings. Of course in some cases court proceedings are inevitable and are in the best interests of the client to ensure that the case is timetabled and dealt with as cost effectively and as swiftly as possible. At Brearleys we do not consider that it is in a clients best interest to engage in protracted correspondence if clearly agreement will not be able to be reached and you shall therefore be advised appropriately at all times as to whether an application is in a clients best interests. We do have highly experienced solicitors specialising in this area who are members of the family panel and we are happy to provide an initial 30 minutes free appointment should you require further advice upon this issue. If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us on 01924 473065.