Quick Guide to the six stages involved in financial proceedings following divorce.
1) The Form A
The law now require parties in all but exceptional cases to attempt mediation to resolve their dispute first. However, if mediation has not been possible or successful then the party who desires to ask the court to determine the matter must commence a court application. In practice this means filling in “Form A” and paying a court fee. The completed Form A and fee should be sent to the court which is dealing with the divorce. It can be sent at any time after the divorce petition has been filed. Once it is received, the court will issue proceedings and notify the other party who is the respondent. The court will then issue directions setting out the next steps with a timetable, which all parties to the case have to follow.
2) The Form E
The next stage is for the parties involved to complete a financial statement known as “Form E”. This form must be completed fully and frankly. This must be sent to the court and your ex-partner at least 35 days before the first court hearing.
All income, assets and other relevant matters must be disclosed in the Form E, which includes all bank accounts, all properties you have an interest in, all investments, all valuable items you own, any pensions and etc. (Substantiating documents must also be attached.) All this has to be done by both parties and it must then be send to the court and their ex-partner. It is fundamental that you disclose everything in the Form E because if you do not do so then you may be in contempt of court, which can result in an imprisonment or fine. The court can also penalize you by ordering a cost order against you.
The court uses Form E to know both parties financial situation when it makes a decision. Form E also allows parties to become aware of each other’s financial situation. This is so if any party wishes to negotiate a settlement, which will avoid further expenses and court proceedings. At Sabeers Stone Greene LLP, our expert family law solicitors can fill in this form on your behalf.
3) The First Directions Appointment (FDA)
The first court hearing is First Directions Appointment (FDA). This hearing is schedule between 12 and 16 weeks after the Form A was sent to the court.
The aim of the first appointment is to define the issues and save costs for the parties involved. The courts will look in to both parties disclosures via Form E to know about their disagreements, so that the courts can decide how to resolve them. A classical example would be that the parties may jointly own a house but disagree over its value. In this satiation the court can make directions that allow this dispute to be resolved for example, by appointing a joint valuer.
The main purpose of this hearing is to make sure the court and the parties have all the information that they need to determine the case.By this time the parties have already had the opportunity to ask questions for any important or missing documents or information. The court at this hearing can also direct what further questions or documents if any must be produced and by what date.
This hearing gives both parties if they agree a basis to be used for negotiation. Most couples usually reach an agreement at this hearing in order to save money and time. At Sabeers Stone Greene LLP., our expert family team are able to guide you through the procedure and make sure that the FDA is as productive as possible.
4) The Questionnaires
As mentioned in step 3 at the First Appointment, the court may decide to order parties to complete a questionnaire, which is aimed at filling in any missing or important information or documents in the disclosure. An example, where the court might order a questionnaire is when one party may not have disclosed a property in another country. Once Replies are exchanged for the questionnaire, parties are often able to negotiate openly and resolve the dispute without having to go back to court. At Sabeers Stone Greene LLP, our skilled family team is able to advise on and draft appropriate questionnaires so as your financial claim can be considered fairly and fully and to ensure your interests are protected.
5) The Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR)
The FDR is the second court hearing and its aim is to allow the parties to freely and openly discuss matters. It gives them another opportunity for further negotiations with the assistance of the Judge. At an FDR, the court has both parties’ financial disclosure. Parties must also give the court details of any offers of settlement that have been made up until that point. Accordingly, the judge has a sight of the whole case and is able to give an “indication” to the parties as to the likely outcome at a final hearing. This is only an indication and is not binding but, it is very useful and gives parties an independent view of their personal positions. Usually, once an indication is given, the judge sends the parties out of court to discuss matters. The advantage of this hearing is that it’s ‘Without Prejudice’ and if negotiations are not successful then they cannot be referred to if the litigation continues to a final contested trial. Please note that the judge at the FDR cannot be the same as the judge at any final hearing. This is so the final hearing judge will know nothing of the without prejudice negotiations or any of the FDR discussions or indications. Usually, most parties reach an agreement at this stage, which means the Judge is able to approve it and a binding court order can be obtained. At Sabeers Stone Greene LLP we are here to help you in each and every stage.
6) Final Hearing
When parties are unable to reach an agreement then the need for final hearing arises. In the final hearing the parties give evidence and answer questions put forward by the legal representatives and judge. The legal representatives give speeches and the judge decides the case. The outcome will vary in every case.
We at Sabeers Stone Greene LLP are able to help you in every stage of financial proceeding. We can refer to mediation, advise on negotiations, draft final agreements and if everything fall short we can represent you throughout the court process.