The Court Process
If it is necessary to involve the Court in resolving financial matters connected to the marriage, an application can be made any time after the petition for Divorce or Dissolution of a Civil Partnership has been issued.
Step 2 – Steps leading up to the First Appointment
After receiving the application, the Court will list a First Appointment hearing not less than 12 weeks but not more than 16 weeks after the date of the application.
Notice of the Hearing will be sent out to the parties along with the following directions: –
- Not less than 35 days before the hearing, both parties must simultaneously exchange financial statements outlining their current financial circumstances;
- Not less than 14 days before the hearing, both parties must file at Court and serve on the other party: –
- A concise statement of issues between the parties;
- A chronology;
- A questionnaire setting out any further information required from the other party. If no additional information is required, a statement to this effect must be filed;
- A notice of confirming if the hearing can be used as a Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (see below).
If an agreement cannot be reached at the First Appointment, the Court will make Directions on the following areas:
- The extent to which any questions raised in the questionnaires must be answered;
- What other documents need to be produced;
- How any assets should be valued where a prior agreement over the value has not been reached by the parties;
- If any expert evidence is required; and
- When the outstanding information needs to be provided to the Court and the other party.
The Court will then provide the parties with notice of the date of the next hearing.
Step 3 – Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (“FDR”)
A FDR hearing is designed to assist the parties in reaching an agreement with their finances and is held on a Without Prejudice basis. The idea behind the hearing is that the Judge considering the matter will be able to provide an indication to the parties as to how the Court may deal with their case if a Final Hearing (see below) took place.
It is hoped that, with the assistance of the Judge, the parties will then be able to negotiate an overall financial agreement between themselves without incurring the cost of having to attend a Final Hearing.
As the Judge dealing with the FDR will be privy to Without Prejudice discussions between the parties, if an agreement is not reached they will have no further involvement in the application.
In preparing for the FDR, not less than seven days before the FDR, the person who made the application must file at Court copies of all offers and proposals made between the parties and any responses received.
It is also necessary for both parties to the matter to appear in person at Court to enable discussions to take place.
In the event that an agreement is not reached at the FDR, the Court will make Directions on the following areas: –
- The filing of any other information required by the Court including up to date information on the parties’ assets and
- A date for the Final Hearing.
Step 4 – Final Hearing
If an agreement cannot be reached beforehand the matter will be determined by a Final Hearing.
Prior to the Final Hearing, the following needs to be done: –
- Not less than 14 days before the Final Hearing the party who made the application must file at Court and serve on the other party an open statement setting out the Orders that they will be seeking from the Court;
- Not less than seven days before the Final Hearing, the other party must respond to this open statement by filing at Court and serving on the other party their open statement that sets out the Orders that they will be seeking from the Court; and
- Prior to the hearing, the party who made the application must file a trial bundle (the contents agreed with the other party beforehand if possible) that includes all the relevant documents in the case.
At the hearing, both parties will give evidence in person to the Court as to their financial circumstances and a Judge will then make a decision as to how the marital assets are to be divided.
Step 5 – Court Order
If an overall agreement is reached by the parties, this can be recorded in a Consent Application and this is then filed at Court. If the Judge considering the matter approves the agreement reached, this will then be formalised as a Consent Order. This will then be used to regulate how the marital assets are to be divided.
In the absence of an agreement and the case having to be determined via a Final Hearing, an Order will be made by the Judge dealing with the hearing. This Order will be drawn up by the Court and sent out to both parties.
Again, once this Order has been made, this will be used to regulate how the marital assets are to be divided.
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