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Frequently, divorcing couples or civil partners dissolving the civil partnership, can agree a financial settlement, with the assistance of their respective solicitors and following an exchange of financial disclosure (i.e. details and documents regarding each party’s financial circumstances), and sometimes after attending mediation.

If agreement is reached that can be drawn up in a court order so that it is a binding settlement, called a Consent Order to reflect it has been reached by agreement.

Most people successfully reach a financial settlement without the need to commence court proceedings. For those who have to use the court process, an overview of the procedure is as follows.

1. The court usually expects both parties to attend a ‘Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting’ to explore if the case can instead be resolved by mediation before issuing court proceedings, although there are some exceptions to this.

2. Form A is to be filed and served – this is the court form which starts the court process.

3. The court sets a date for the First Directions Appointment and a timetable for the case.

4. Preparation for the First Directions Appointment:

a. Financial Statements (Forms E) must be filed and exchanged five weeks before the First Directions Appointment.
b. A Statement of Issues, Chronology and a Questionnaire to be filed by both parties 14 days before the First Directions Appointment.

5. First Directions Appointment at Court. The judge may give directions in relation to how the case is to be progressed for example the extent to which questionnaires should be responded to and by when, and whether any expert evidence is required valuing assets in dispute. The case will be listed for the next hearing; the Financial Dispute Resolution appointment.

6. Preparation for the Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) Hearing:

  • Responding to Questionnaires;
  • Obtaining expert evidence and valuations;
  • Putting forward proposals as to settlement and considering any proposals received
  • Filing with court any proposals for settlement.

7. The Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) Hearing:

Both parties’ representatives set out their proposals as to settlement (and reasoning behind their proposals). The Judge will try to assist the parties in reaching an agreement and may give an indication as to what he or she thinks would be an appropriate outcome; and the parties may be sent to continue negotiations through their representatives outside the court room to see if an agreement can be reached. If an agreement is reached the court may make a final order by consent on that date. Whilst most cases do settle at the FDR, if the parties cannot reach an agreement the court cannot impose a decision upon them at the FDR, but will give further directions as to any further steps to be taken and will list the case for a final hearing on a later date.

8. Preparation for Final Hearing:

  • Complying with any further directions e.g. preparing statements
  • Bundles of evidence must be collated and filed at least 7 days before the final hearing.
  • A barrister will need to be briefed for the hearing.
  • Open proposals of settlement must be filed and served.

9. Final Hearing

The court will hear both parties give evidence and hear the submissions of their representatives and the judge will then give his or her judgment and make a final order.

10. Implementation

The terms of the order need to be carried out. This could include the transfer of property, payment of a lump sum, assignment of a life policy and sharing of a pension.

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