You will naturally want to reach a financial settlement as efficiently as you can, to save time and legal costs.
Understandably, a couple may want to cut across some issues, but they can later become stuck because they are negotiating from different standpoints. For example, there may not be an agreement on the value of some assets.
Of course, some couples can reach a financial settlement without going to court. In fact, most couples do this and have their agreement drafted into a consent order.
What is the financial procedure if I have to go to the Family Court?
You may, of course, fail to reach a divorce financial settlement and sometimes the only option is to ask the court for help.
The financial procedure can be summarised by the points below but it is important to remember that a financial agreement can be reached at any time:
1. Notice of application – Form A
- This is your financial application and where you set out your financial claims.
- The Family Court will fix the date for the First Appointment when you must attend court (sometimes now by video link).
- The Family Court will also automatically set out some directions you and your partner need to comply with, for example, financial disclosure.
2. Financial statement – Form E
- Both you and your partner need to complete the Form E and provide the relevant documents in support.
- The Forms E are then exchanged and filed at court.
3. First Appointment documents
- Prior to the First Appointment you and you partner need to provide to the court certain information and documents in advance.
- Such documents include a case summary and a schedule of assets, called Forms ES1 and ES2 respectively.
- There may also be other documents to include a chronology, a financial questionnaire, any applications for expert evidence (eg. property or business valuations, pensions and so on).
- The Court will also direct that you file housing particulars and a mortgage capacity report. This is with a view to considering your respective housing needs.
- A Form G which informs the family judge whether or not you are ready to negotiate or not.
- A Form H which provides a summary of your respective costs to the date of that hearing.
4. First Appointment
- This is the first court hearing and is commonly for case management directions.
- The family judge will consider the relevant issues in your case.
- For example, this will centre around any points of financial disclosure, valuation evidence, the need for expert reports and so on.
- The family judge has to fairly manage cases and also have regard to time and costs.
- At the end of this hearing the family judge will fix a date for the Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment, which is the negotiation hearing.
5. Making offers to settle
- Prior to the FDR hearing you can you partner will need to exchange with each other and file at court an offer to settle your case.
- You will also each file up to date costs information, Forms H.
6. Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment
- This is the negotiation hearing with the family judge.
- The family judge will see all of the papers in the case, within the court bundle, to include the offers to settle.
- At the FDR hearing, representations and legal arguments will also be made to support your offer and why this is a fair way to settle the case.
- The family judge will then give a view to help you and your partner reach a financial settlement.
- The FDR hearing takes place ‘without prejudice’ and this is to help focus on th real issues and to promote a financial agreement.
- If, however, an agreement cannot be reached then the Family Court will have to list your case for a Final Hearing.
- It is also likely that you will prepare a narrative statement (called a section 25 statement) prior to the final hearing and provide updating financial disclosure; and an updated Form H costs form.
7. Open proposals for settlement
- Before the final hearing you will each need to file and serve open proposals to settle the case.
- Any ‘without prejudice’ proposals are hidden from the court (unless at the FDR stage above).
8. Final Hearing
- This is where a new family judge will hear evidence from you and your partner; and will make a decision to bring your financial case to a conclusion by way of a final order.
This is a broad overview of the financial procedure in divorce and financial cases. It is not a substitute for real legal advice because each case is individual. Family law advice can then be given to help you achieve the best possible financial outcome.
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