If the terms of financial settlement cannot be agreed through negotiations, round table meetings, Collaborative Law or Mediation either party to Matrimonial Proceedings can apply to the Court by making an application for a Financial Order. There is a duty on parties to consider mediation before making any such Application and any Applicant will be asked by the Court to confirm that they have attended at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) in most cases. The Court may adjourn Proceedings for mediation if appropriate.
To start Court Proceedings an Application known as a “Form A” has to be sent to the Family Court together with the fee (currently £255). The Court will then provide notification of the first Court appointment, the First Directions Appointment (FDA). This will be some 12-16 weeks from the date of issuing the Application.
Five weeks before the FDA both parties must send to the Court and exchange financial forms known as Form E’s. In addition, certain documents need to be attached to the Form E including, where applicable;
At least fourteen days before the FDA it is necessary to file with the Court and serve on the other side the following documents; A Statement of issues which exist between the parties, a chronology setting out the background to the Application, a questionnaire setting out the further information and documents which are being sought from the other side having considered their Form E, a notice stating whether the FDA can be used as an FDR (see below for explanation)
The main objective of the FDA is to try to define the issues between the parties so as to save costs. Both parties must attend the hearing which will be heard by a District Judge. The District Judge will decide which questions need to be answered and deal with such matters as to the valuation of property and the appointment of Experts, if appropriate. If the parties are both ready to discuss proposals for settlement then it may be appropriate to turn the FDA into a Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (FDR). If not, then the FDR appointment will normally follow some 6-8 weeks after the FDA.
The objective of the FDR is to try to reach an agreement. Seven days prior to the hearing offers of settlement should be made and filed with the Court. Normally the District Judge will take an active part in the proceedings giving an informal view on possible settlement figures. Again, both parties must attend the hearing and are usually invited to attend at least one hour before the allotted time to try and settle the case.
If the parties are able to reach an agreement this can be recorded in the terms of a Consent Order. If no settlement is achieved, then the Judge will list a final hearing which is normally two months or so after the FDR. The Judge may also give further directions as to what needs to happen before this hearing. The parties will need to give evidence at this hearing and the outcome will be decided by the District Judge who will give a Judgement as to how the assets are to be divided. This Judgement will take into account the factors and case law referred to in our Fact Sheets – “Financial Orders – The Law”.
Our solicitors all have considerable experience in dealing with all pats of this process and can assist and advise you throughout. You can visit any of our offices in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Melton or Woodbridge or call us on 01473 211121.
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