In financial proceedings there are usually three court hearings. In some cases, additional hearings may be required.
Before the first hearing, both parties are ordered to provide their financial disclosure on a form which will be provided to them, known as Form E. This is a detailed document and it is important that it is completed accurately.
A number of other documents must also be prepared by each party including a questionnaire if a party needs to ask questions about the other party’s financial disclosure.
The first hearing is called a First Directions Appointment (FDA). At this hearing the Judge will:-
- Decide which questions should be answered and by when
- Make court orders concerning any expert evidence that is needed, for example property, business or pension valuations
- Order the production of any outstanding documentation
- Decide when the case should come to court again for the next hearing
The second hearing is called a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR). It is expected that by this stage, the parties will have exchanged offers of settlement.
The purpose of the FDR is for the parties to negotiate to try and reach a settlement. The Judge can give the parties guidance and an indication as to how they should approach the case and recommend routes to a settlement. This indication is not binding on the parties, and if there is no settlement, the Judge giving the guidance is not permitted to decide matters at the final hearing.
If matters do not settle, the case will proceed to the third and final hearing, at which the parties will give their evidence and can be cross-examined. The Judge will then make a decision which will result in the making of a court order which is binding on each party.
It is important to understand that an agreement can be reached concerning financial disputes at any stage, even after court proceedings have begun.