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A Guide to Financial Remedy Proceedings (previously called "Ancillary Relief")

Part 1: Preliminary

"Financial Remedy" is the term used by lawyers to describe all orders a Court can make following divorce, judicial separation or nullity proceedings including of a financial or property nature or that relate to pensions.

When an agreement cannot be reached between the parties, either one can apply to the court for court intervention. Such proceedings are very much Court-controlled. The Court will impose timetables for compliance with its orders and the parties will usually be required to personally attend all Court hearings. There may well be costs consequences for failing to adhere to timetables, to obey Court orders and to attend hearings.

Firstly, it is extremely unlikely that either party will be ordered to pay the other's legal costs. The general rule is that each party is responsible for his/her own costs in financial remedy proceedings unless there has been gross financial misconduct by one party, such as fraud.

The process involves three hearings (First Appointment, FDR and final hearing) and everyone will follow the same process. The matter can settle at any point of the process.

A financial remedy application is commenced by filing with the Court an application called 'Form A', accompanied by a cheque to the Court in the sum of £255.00. The Court will then provide a timetable for the following documents to be exchanged with the other party and filed at Court:
  • a Financial Statement about their financial circumstances (known as a Form E) to be exchanged with the other side and filed at Court;
  • a concise statement of the apparent issues between the parties;
  • a chronology;
  • either a questionnaire setting out the further information and documents each requires from the other, or a statement that no such information or documents are required;
  • a Financial Statement about their financial circumstances (known as a Form E) to be exchanged with the other side and filed at Court;
  • a completed Notice in Form G, stating whether the party will be in a position at the First Appointment to bypass the first hearing and treat it as the second hearing, the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing ("FDR");
  • A Form H costs estimate of any legal costs incurred by the party.
The Court will also provide the date of the First Appointment, for which both parties are expected to attend in person.

Part 2: The First Appointment

The first hearing in financial remedy proceedings is termed "The First Appointment" (or FDA for First Directions Appointment). The objective of the FDA is to define the issues in dispute between the parties and to save costs. The District Judge will assess the evidence in front of them and decide how best to progress the case. The Judge will make an Order setting out what further evidence is required by both parties and the terms of any agreed points. The Judge will also list the matter for an FDR, unless the parties reach a full settlement.

It is worth noting that it is possible for the Court to treat the FDA as an FDR if appropriate. It would only be appropriate to bypass the FDA where the value of the assets is agreed, there is no outstanding documentation/evidence required by either party and/or the issues are limited.

Part 3: The "FDR"

The FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution) hearing is a mock trial and the Judge will give their indication what the final order may be. It promotes healthy and realistic negotiations. There will be no cross examination but both parties, or their representatives, will make submissions to the Judge.

The Judge hearing the FDR appointment must not preside over the final hearing as they will have 'insider' knowledge of the case having seen all proposals made to settle the matter and will have already given an indication of their view.

At the conclusion of the FDR appointment, the Court may make an appropriate Consent Order (if the parties have agreed terms of settlement) but must otherwise give directions for the future course of proceedings, including where appropriate a timetable for filing evidence and fixing a final hearing date.

It is important to remember that no guillotine falls with regard to negotiations between the parties following the FDR appointment. The parties can continue to negotiate up to the time of their Final Hearing, if indeed there is one.

Part 4 - The Final Hearing

"Final hearings" probably only occur in some 10% of cases. If a final hearing is necessary, in addition to listing the matter for such, the Judge dealing with the case will have made an order setting out the timetable for filing further evidence to include, but not limited to:
  • File (with the Court) and exchange (with each other) what are termed "narrative" or "Section 25" (of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973) statements. That legislation contains details of the factors to be taken into consideration by the Court when exercising its powers in financial remedy applications; first consideration being given to the welfare of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen;
  • Provide updated financial disclosure and valuations of the assets.
At a final hearing, the parties will each give evidence on oath that is subject to cross-examination. There is also likely to be a detailed consideration of the documentation produced by both parties.

Depending upon matters such as the complexity of the case, judgment may not be given at the conclusion of the hearing but "reserved" to be given at some subsequent date.

Finally, some comments regarding the costs of proceeding to a final hearing. As a rough guide, the costs incurred by the stage of a final hearing will be approximately twice what they were when the Financial Dispute Resolution appointment took place.

For 30 minutes free advice on Financial Remedy Proceedings or any family law matter, please call Caroline Ford or Sarah Scott on 020 3096 7500 or email us at info@pcm-law.net

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