Financial Remedy Hearings on divorce

Financial Remedy hearings on divorce are the court hearings that determine your financial settlement. In What is Financial Remedy  we looked at what financial remedy is, and the types of order the court can make. In this post, we take a look at the court hearings themselves.

What happens at the First Appointment?

Court hearings start with the First Directions Appointment (FDA). At the First Appointment the Judge will expect you to have exchanged Form E, Chronology, Statement of Issues and Questionnaires already. If you have stated on Form G that you’re ready for Financial Dispute Resolution the judge will go ahead with that.

If not, the judge will look at the paperwork provided and listen to representations. Based on what they read and hear, they will make directions about what should happen next. Take your own notes during the session, although an order will be sent to you. 

The judge might direct either of you to provide outstanding information. This can include property valuations, actuarial reports, pension valuations and mortgage borrowing capacity. A penal notice may be attached if one party has already failed to comply with directions.

There will be strict timescales laid down with which you should comply. It’s possible to apply for these to be varied and you should do this if necessary rather than ignore them. 

The Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing

The Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing is the next hearing after the First Appointment. It is usually several months later. 

By the hearing date you will need to have complied with further directions and continued to negotiate. You may even have agreement on some but not all aspects of your case. It is likely proposals and offers will have been made. 

Negotiating a settlement

The FDR aims to help you reach a negotiated settlement. You’ll be asked what orders you’d like the court to make. This is in the light of the further information and proposals that have been shared since the First Appointment. The judge at the FDR will give an indication as to the way in which they believe the court will deal with the matter. Note, that it won’t be the same judge at the Final Hearing.

It’s important that you come to court prepared to compromise. Consider what your financial limits are – if you disagree with proposals on financial (not moral or ‘fairness’) grounds, make sure you have evidence to back up your point of view. It might be that you can afford mortgage payments in your area but not rent, for example. 

If an order by consent is possible, the judge will be happy to make an order or directions with a view to a order being made in the terms agreed (bear in mind there is no going back on these terms even if the order cannot be made that same day). 

The judge cannot make you agree and if you can’t a Final Hearing will be listed with further directions given. 

Final Hearing

The chances of you ending up at a Final Hearing are slim – only 9% of cases get this far. It’s still possible to negotiate a settlement even after the Final Hearing has been listed right up until the hearing itself.

At the Final Hearing the judge can hear evidence from each of you and representations by your solicitor/barrister if you have them (don’t panic if you do not).

The judge has to apply the law (s25 MCA 1973) and decide what’s fair, based on the evidence they have heard. They have the power to order the sale or transfer of property, the sharing of pensions, the payment of lump sums or periodical payments. The judge can even decide how to split your possessions! Once you are before a judge you no longer have the right to decide for yourselves. 

You will usually get a decision on the day but sometimes judges will reserve judgement in order to consider the case in more detail. If this happens, you’ll have to go back to court to hear the decision at a later date. 

When you have a solicitor

When you have a solicitor acting for you, they will take care of most of the financial remedy process for you. They will, of course, need your active input. Ensure you give yourself plenty of time to act on any requests or instructions they give you.

If you are self-representing

It’s possible to handle financial remedy without a solicitor if you can’t afford or choose not to instruct one. As I said in my last blog, organisation is key.  Stay realistic and see that as far as the court is concerned this is simply the application of the law.

Judges have hundreds of cases to deal with. They are there to meet the overriding objectives of ‘fairness’, avoiding delay and saving costs. They don’t know you personally and won’t get caught up in emotional back stories. It’s not personal – its just business.

So you need to work with the system you have. The best way to get a good outcome is to know the strengths and weaknesses of both yours and your ex’s case. That means getting organised, being prepared and staying calm.

No solicitor but need help?

I’ve supported lots of self-representing women, as well as those working with solicitors. Is it easy to self-represent? No. But is it doable? Absolutely. One of the most powerful things I do with clients is show them that just because their ex has a lawyer, it doesn’t mean they should give up on their own interests. 

Solicitors are all Officers of the Court. They are bound by duties, obligations and codes of conduct. Most solicitors (sadly not all), take this seriously and will treat you with the courtesy and respect you deserve, just as you will them. You don’t need to be intimidated. My clients tell me that having a trained coach, mediator and former lawyer on their side is invaluable when it comes to getting this done!

If you need help to figuring what you need to do next, or gathering the confidence to do it, with or without a solicitor, get in touch.

Whether it’s through joining my community, or one to one coaching, I can help you get the future you want.

Find out more about my online community. The Absolute Academy includes ladies just like you who are both represented by solicitors and those representing themselves. 

The Divorce Alchemist

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a practising family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

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