Where parties cannot reach an agreement in relation to their finances on divorce they will need to navigate through the Court process. However, over recent years the family law courts have struggled to deal with the volume of cases coming before them with the result being long delays and many cancellations which can add more tension and stress to an already emotive time.
There are alternatives to speed up the process and one of these is to incorporate a private FDR into the process.
The basis of the process remains unchanged as follows:
1. An application is made to the court at which point the Court issues an automatic direction requiring the parties to file with the court and serve on the other party full financial disclosure by completing what is known as Form E.
2. First Hearing - FDA
The court also fixes a date for what is known as a First Appointment, a directions hearing enabling the parties to seek rulings from the court to require each party to supply any outstanding information and to procure valuations, or such other information as will assist the court and the individuals reach a solution.
3. Second Hearing:
An FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution) appointment which is designed to enable the judge sitting on the day to help the parties by giving an indication as to what the court would order given the evidence before them at the time. This is the stage at which you can initiate a private FDR.
4. Third Hearing – Final Hearing
If the FDR fails to break the impasse the court will set a trial date.
What a private FDR does is to try and achieve agreement between the parties with the assistance of a financial remedy expert instead of a judge. The financial remedy expert is likely to be an independent barrister or solicitor specialising in financial remedy and specifically trained to sit as a private judge
The expert reviews the case and the paperwork to ascertain what the issues are and gives the parties a summary of the issues providing them with an indication of the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case. It is also an indication of how a judge may decide their case if it does proceed to a full trial. It also gives the parties the opportunity to negotiate throughout the process.
Another advantage of a private FDR is that it can be heard in a more relaxed setting, such as a barrister’s chambers or solicitor’s offices, which is considerably less formal than Court. Each party will have the support of their legal representative to support and advise.
Although the parties jointly pay the cost of the private expert because the appointment can be arranged at the convenience of the parties and much sooner than the court can list a hearing going down this route could in the long run save the parties significant costs generated by the prolonged court process.
The difference between a private FDR and Arbitration or a court FDR is that the expert’s decision is not binding.
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