13 June 2016
Family Law, the Next Steps ...
I am going through a divorce and the finances are now going through the court process as we were unable to agree, what happens?
The financial application will be filed at court. The court will schedule the matter in the court’s diary and issue a date for a first hearing, at this time the court will also make directions to both the husband and wife for a date when they need to complete and exchange their financial disclosure in a Form E. The first hearing is known as an FDA, the First Directions Appointment.
Both parties will need to complete the financial disclosure, the Form E. This form is rather lengthy and on first view can appear quite scary. You must take it one section at a time and complete to the fullest of your knowledge and most importantly be honest. Be prepared to provide 12 months bank statements, 3 months payslips, business accounts, pension information and such documents. The information is comprehensive as this is the document that will be used by the court to decide a financial settlement.
The Form E is exchanged simultaneously so that one party does not adjust what is in their document in light of what they have read in the others. Once exchanged you should review your spouse’s document and see whether there is any missing information. If there is the court will make a direction for a questionnaire to be raised.
The purpose of FDA is to decide what more information you and the court need in order to start to negotiate properly. It deals with the management of your case: the evidence and timetable. Both parties attend the hearing and if you have legal representation then you do not normally need to speak in court as your lawyer speaks on your behalf. The normal practice is that the lawyers have a discussion about the case and see what matters can be agreed. There is then a hearing before the judge to make decisions on these matters.
The matter will then likely be listed for an FDR, Financial Dispute Resolution hearing. The purpose of this hearing is for a judge to review all the financial information and provide an indication of what the likely settlement would be if this went to a final hearing. The FDR hearing is a without prejudice hearing. Most cases settle her or just after and the court makes a final order on the agreed terms. The judge sitting on the FDR is barred from the final hearing.
If there is no settlement, the judge makes a directions order and sets the case down for a final hearing. In advance of the hearing bundles of papers for the court will have to be prepared and fi led; barristers will be briefed and may discuss matters in conference (i.e. meetings with you); open proposals for settlement will be filed and served; and detailed costs estimates will have to be filed.
At the final hearing the court will listen to evidence, grant orders and give reasons. Each spouse will be required to give evidence as a witness and be cross examined on the financial disclosure by the other spouse or their lawyer if represented. If there is enough time the judgment will be handed down then and if time is short there may be a reserved judgement which means the parties will need to come back at a later date.