Going through a Divorce is often a very difficult time in one’s life and the additional stress associated to sorting out financial matters can only add to already worrying times. It is therefore essential to obtain specialist legal advice on potentially complex matters when deciding to proceed with a Divorce. When filing for Divorce through the English Courts, one needs to be aware that the financial aspect consequent on the breakdown of the marriage is dealt with through a separate process, although within the Divorce proceedings. We are able to guide and assist you through the whole process.
To facilitate this process, the Financial Remedies Courts (FRC) have been set up throughout England as part of the Family Courts. The principal aim of the FRC is to improve the delivery of financial remedies for families involved in Court proceedings relating to the dissolution of the marriage / relationship.
Upon making an application (Form A) for financial remedies, the applicant will be asked to file an allocation Questionnaire. Although this is not compulsory, it will assist to allocate the case to the appropriate Court. The Questionnaire requires such information as : the details of the parties and any children; the date of the marriage; any Decrees made following application for dissolution; the names of the parties’ legal representatives and an explanation of any potentially complex issues in the case. If practicable, the applicant should seek the assistance of the opposite party to complete the Questionnaire but understandably, this may not always be possible.
Initially, upon acceptance of an application, the Court will issue Directions with regards to the filing of documents such as the Financial Statements (Form E) and all associated pleadings.
Within the proceedings, the parties may benefit from various processes for example the option for an accelerated First Appointment procedure. This is intended to provide a method for avoiding the personal attendance of the parties and their legal representatives at the First Appointment Hearing in cases where the parties have been able to agree Directions in advance. This process would be beneficial where the personal attendance of the parties is likely to be heavily outweighed by the costs incurred by the parties’ attending in person.
As has always been encouraged by the English Courts, the FRC Judges will constantly query whether the parties can attempt to reach a settlement out of Court through channels such as Mediation or Arbitration. Where a case has been referred to any of the aforementioned, it shall not ordinarily be given further Court time except for a short Directions Hearing which may be vacated with the consent of the parties in circumstances where they have reached an agreement. Following reaching an agreement, a Consent Order outlining all the terms of the agreement should be filed with the Court. If the parties are unable to resolve issues out of Court, the matter will need to progress through the Courts in a structured and monitored manner.
A statement on the efficient conduct of financial remedy hearings proceeding in the Financial Remedies Court below the level of a High Court Judge has been released by the judiciary. It essentially outlines standards and procedures to be followed to ensure appropriate allocation of the Court’s resources and improve access to justice for all litigants in the FRC. The statement deals with each stage of the process from Allocation of the case, to the various Hearings (First Appointment Hearing, Financial Dispute Resolution, Interim Hearings - if required, right through to the Final Hearing) and documents required for the process.
At all stages, the FRC will want to be informed of the parties’ compliance with the duty to negotiate openly and reasonably. The parties will be warned that, whatever the size of the case, a failure to make reasonable attempts to compromise cases in open negotiation will be met by costs penalties. This should encourage the parties to attempt negotiations where possible whilst being mindful of the family purse when embarking into contested litigation regarding their finances.
The above is a general overview and should not be contrued as legal advice. For further information or advice in relation to divorce or any family matters, please contact Dee Popat or our Family Department.
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