A guide to an application for a Financial Order
Whether you are the husband or the wife when you make an application for the court to determine the terms of your financial settlement the form is the same as is called a ‘Form A’.
When the court receives the application it will generate some standard directions to enable your case to progress to the next stage. You will be given the following dates:
What happens at the first court appointment?
The first appointment is usually a short hearing and factual procedural matters are discussed rather than the terms upon which your case should conclude.
At the first appointment the court will consider what further information is required to enable the Court to determine how a final settlement can be reached. The judge will order further dates for questionnaires to be answered and also consider what additional expert evidence is necessary. For example the court may decide that formal property valuations are required or a pension report to determine how a fair pension share can be reached.
Following the hearing a further date will be fixed for the next stage in the proceedings.
It is essential that during the time period between the first and second hearing (FDR) all relevant evidence of financial positions is gathered to the full satisfaction of both parties. If further information is required it is necessary to request the same from the other party or bring the matter back before the courts for a further short directions hearing for any outstanding issues to be dealt with.
What happens at the FDR?
The FDR (financial dispute resolution) hearing is usually the second court hearing. It is a longer hearing than the first and is designed to consider terms for settlement now all disclosure has been obtained and considered.
The FDR is a ‘without prejudice’ hearing, which means each of you is able to make proposals for settlement that cannot be referred to openly in court afterwards. Before the hearing both parties will set out in writing how they would each like to settle. The Judge will read those letters and will try to assist you to come to a settlement. Usually the Judge will give an indication, a view, of what they think could be an appropriate solution and how they might order financial settlement if they were the Judge at the final hearing. If you are able to reach an agreement the court can potentially make an order that day to formalise your agreement and end the court proceedings.
If you are not able to conclude an agreement on the day the Judge cannot force you to do so and instead will give any further directions about what is needed to get the case ready for the court to make a decision. This may include asking each of you to prepare a detailed statement and will fix a date for the final hearing.
What happens at the final hearing?
If it is not possible to reach an agreement, the court will decide at the final hearing (usually the third hearing) how you will financial separate. The court will rule upon all outstanding issues such as any property, assets and income. It is rare for proceedings to reach a final hearing. Most people agree at either the FDR or shortly afterwards.
At a final hearing, the applicant presents their case first, then the respondent says what they want to happen. Each of you, and any experts you have asked for an opinion, will have to give evidence and be cross-examined by the other (or their legal representative if they have one). After hearing all the evidence and submissions from each of your legal teams, the judge will make an order about what should happen.
There is limited scope to have your costs paid by the other person in financial proceedings. The general rule is that each person pays their own legal fees.