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Show me the paperwork: new changes in financial remedy cases

There are big changes afoot in the procedures for the financial remedies court. These changes aim to encourage a more collaborative approach to the preparation of case paperwork and make the whole process of financial remedy more efficient.

However, this aim of efficiency can also put a lot of strain on those trying to agree on a financial settlement as part of their divorce. This is because the changes require:

  • Your family lawyer/s to do more work "upfront" before your case will be heard in court.
  • More cooperation and collaboration between the two parties involved throughout the process.
  • You and the other party to draw up and then agree a schedule of assets and your case summary before the hearing.

As a result, gathering the paperwork, summarising and getting agreements between the two of you has to be done much further in advance. That’s a lot of work and stress for all involved, happening at a time of heightened emotions and major changes in your own life and that of your family.

Equally, financial institutions and other professional such as accountants need time to prepare and send the information you need in the format you need it.

Therefore it’s crucial that you and your legal team have the time, resources, and patience to prepare in full, well in advance.

As Director Rita Gupta notes:

"This new approach requires people to get advice early on in their divorce or separation process. The emphasis is on early "front loading" of preparation. So when the case comes to court, the level of information and detail is there so the case can (hopefully) be settled more quickly."

FDA, FDR and final hearing

There are three points where the new changes might affect your financial settlement:

- FDAs - First Directions Appointment

This is your first hearing in court about any financial dispute in your divorce.

- FDRs - Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment / Hearing

After full disclosure (link to a blog) has been completed, the court will hear summaries from both parties, and will give guidance on how reasonable each person's case is, and what the likely outcome of a final hearing would be. Judges are very keen that this hearing includes the chance for both of your legal teams to negotiate and (hopefully) agree on a financial settlement.

- Final Hearings

If you haven't managed to resolve your dispute at the FDR, the court will set a longer hearing where you can both have your say. The judge will decide how to divide your finances and on any ongoing financial support for one spouse from the other.

 

45 minutes by default

Each FDA case to be heard will be allocated an initial 45-minute time slot. The aim of the "upfront" paperwork is to ensure that you and your lawyers can identify if you need more than 45 minutes, i.e. you've got a complex case. If required, the length of your final hearing/trial can be set after a PTR (Pre-Hearing Review / Pre-Trial Review).

However, there is also a downside to the default 45 minutes, as Director Anne Leiper explains:

“The whole of the court system in England and Wales is already suffering from delays due to the pandemic. Since hearings are now being listed (lasting) for longer periods, these delays are only going to get even worse. The result could be the opposite of what is intended; longer waits for hearings rather than the hoped-for efficiency.”

 

Combining FDA and FDR

If both of you agree, you can combine the FDA and FDR into just one hearing. You'll need to assemble significant paperwork of jointly obtained 14 days before this date, including market appraisals of your assets, property valuations, and details of your borrowing capacity.

The key point here is "jointly obtained", so everyone has to work together. If your divorce is acrimonious, this could take some time. So, the earlier you start the more likely you are to hit that 14-day deadline.

 

Representing yourself in court

If you want to represent yourself in court, you are known as a litigant in person (LIP). This means you choose to go through the court process without legal representation. Being a LIP does NOT exclude you from the requirement to do all the paperwork upfront and to collaborate with the other party's legal team in creating it. If you case is in any way complex, this is a big burden to carry over and above the emotional stress of a divorce and appearing in court.

Whilst in no way suggesting this is not possible, at LGFL we know just how difficult and time-consuming case paperwork some cases can be even for legal professionals. Taking it on yourself is a considerable burden and responsibility. Plus, you also have to negotiate yourself with the other party to get agreement – not ideal if you have a major dispute to resolve.

When you have legal representation, your legal team do the negotiations on your behalf. You don’t have to talk to, negotiate with or agree things with the other party. As family lawyers, we talk to your spouse’s lawyers, and work towards an agreement.

That's just one of the reasons we offer a fixed fee 1 hour consultation, so you can discuss your situation and receive valuable advice about the various options open to you.

 

Specialists in complex cases involving children

At LGFL, we specialise in complex separation cases that involve children. Our team work efficiently and tirelessly to secure the best and fairest outcome for you and your family. We already use collaborative law to work with other parties. We also offer high levels experience and skills in being dogged and persistent in obtaining financial disclosure from sometimes reluctant other parties.

If you'd like to talk to us:

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