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Court Process

Generally

Proceedings are often to be avoided if matters can be resolved in what is normally a more amicable and cost efficient way. However if this can't be achieved then starting proceedings provides a structure to ensure that matters are progressed to a conclusion and from that point of view can be a valuable way forward.

Parties generally need to have attended mediation before proceedings are started or risk being penalised at court. A party is not forced to mediate though and if at the first meeting (which does not involve the other side) it is felt that mediation is not appropriate then a Form is issued to file with the court confirming the process has been considered.

Once Financial Proceedings have been started

Once proceedings are started, matters are timetabled, culminating in a hearing, about 4 months later. Within the first three months, or so, a Form E has to be filed. This is designed to set out your financial position, including documents, such as, 12 months of statements for any accounts you hold, last year's p60, last 3 months pay slips, any valuations of properties, cash equivalent transfer values of any pensions and so on. There is an ongoing duty of full and frank disclosure.

Thereafter and before the first hearing date, further documents need to be filed, including a chronology of important events in the relationship, issues for the forthcoming hearing and perhaps in general, a questionnaire asking for further documents or clarifying financial information from the other side, a Form H providing the court with an idea of your costs at that stage and a Form G setting out whether the First Directions Appointment (FDA) can actually be treated as a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing (FDR).

Type of hearing - FDA | FDR | Final Contested Hearing

The first hearing will usually remain as an FDA if there are issues that still need dealing with i.e the timetable has not been complied with, or a party requires further information or documents from the other side, to clarify their financial position or vice versa (which may in turn be set out in the questionnaire). Further, there may be a need to deal with valuations of certain assets, if these can't be agreed, such as properties, pensions, businesses etc. The judge can make directions dealing with such issues.

Ideally, both parties should eventually be satisfied that each has presented their true financial position or it has been clarified through relevant valuations or enquires. An overall schedule of assets and income can then be used by everyone to consider what a fair settlement is. An FDR hearing would then be appropriate. Even, falling short of this ideal, there may be enough information to attempt an FDR.

An FDR hearing is an opportunity to try and agree a settlement with any legal representatives of your choice. Failing this, the judge can give an opinion on their views, which in turn may assist the parties to conclude matters. Failing this, the matter may simply be directed towards a final contested hearing, where a judge will make an order as to what they think is fair. Any judge who has been involved at an FDR cannot be involved at any final contested hearing.

Finally

This is a simplification of matters and although most matters settle withafter a few hearings, other matters can take several more. These often arise in situations of mistrust, where assets have been dissipated, complexity of assets or where parties are simply at different stages in being able to agree and settle matters.

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