Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing

Divorce finances what happens at the final hearing

This is the most challenging time – make sure you get advice from an expert family lawyer on the subject of divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing.

The FDR crumbled

You didn’t reach agreement at the FDR, but not all is lost. The Judge’s indication of the likely outcome of your case can be a wake up call. There’s plenty of opportunity in the weeks before the final hearing to negotiate and reach a settlement.

The earlier you settle, the better. Heading towards a final hearing is when the serious stuff kicks in – vital and detailed preparation – and if at this stage you decide to get legal help, it won’t come cheap: it’s the most expensive time in any Court case.

You need to follow the Court order setting out the timetable for the lead up to the final hearing. You’ll either have agreed it with your ex, or the Court will have imposed it.

What’s the plan

Follow the timetable. It’s not optional, and there are dates to keep to. It can include orders to provide:

  • updated financial disclosure
  • valuations of land and property
  • pensions report
  • tax report
  • Court bundle
  • costs estimate
  • open offers of settlement

What’s a Court bundle

It contains all relevant documents plus the “preliminary documents” (see below). It’s paginated and indexed, and is extremely useful in a final hearing. But who prepares it?

  • the applicant (as opposed to the respondent). If you’re not sure who’s who, look at your latest Court order. And it’s not necessarily the same as who started the divorce. But if the applicant is a litigant in person, the bundle is prepared by:
  • the respondent. But if the respondent is a litigant in person there’s no bundle, unless the Court directs otherwise.

What’s in the Court bundle

Not every single document, letter, email – just what’s set out in Practice Direction 27a

What are the preliminary documents

see Practice Direction 27a, but in brief:

  • case summary
  • statement of issues
  • position statement by each of you (what you want and why you think it’s fair – in line with your open offer)
  • chronology

If you haven’t done a s25 statement, your position statement will have to include it.

What’s a s25 statement

Provides all the details required by s25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

  • income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources 
  • financial needs
  • standard of living before the marriage breakdown 
  • age
  • duration of the marriage
  • physical or mental disability 
  • contributions to the welfare of the family
  • conduct of your ex

Conduct 

S.25 mentions conduct “inequitable to disregard” – and it goes well beyond committing adultery. My next blog will cover this subject.

Conference with Counsel

Or, in plain English, a meeting with your barrister.

Now’s a good time to take expert legal advice and employ a barrister to represent you. It’s an expensive step, but you need to make sure your position and your needs are fairly and expertly represented.

The doors of the Court

Quite often an agreement is reached just before you’re due to walk into the final hearing.

What happens at the final hearing

In brief:

  • it won’t be the same Judge as at the FDR, and they won’t know what happened at the FDR
  • you and your ex will give evidence under oath and be cross examined
  • experts will be questioned about, for example, the value of the business or of the home
  • the Judge will make an order

What is cross examination

It’s when you or your barrister ask your ex questions. These focus on the areas in dispute, for example:

  • fitness to work
  • earning potential
  • new partner
  • household expenditure.

Don’t forget – you’ll be cross examined, too.

Orders the Judge can make

See the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 . Examples:

  • property adjustment
  • maintenance
  • pension sharing
  • orders for sale
  • duration of financial orders

Questions about financial disclosure

This is the sixth blog in a series, and includes blogs on how to complete Form E; prepare a statement of issues, chronology and questionnaire. You are also led through the First Appointment and the FDR.

Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for Divorce finances: what happens at a final hearing, Woman Travel Adventure Trek Mountain Rock by StockSnap on Wikimedia Commons

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What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – part 3

after Financial Disclosure in Divorce

This week I’m explaining the difference between a First Appointment and a FDR Appointment after Financial Disclosure in Divorce. Why is this important? Because if you understand the difference you can “speed up” the Court timetable and reach an early conclusion. I’ll explain it as clearly as possible but if you’re at all unsure what to do, please get advice from an expert family lawyer.

The Court timetable

Here’s a reminder of the Court timetable. In last week’s blog – What happens after financial disclosure in divorce – part 2 – I dealt with the first three documents but not the fourth.

“Not less than 14 days before the First Appointment you must file with the Court and serve on each other:

  1. concise statement of the issues
  2. chronology
  3. questionnaire setting out any further information and documents requested
  4. notice stating whether you will be in a position at the First Appointment to proceed to a FDR Appointment”

So what is document number 4 all about?

Notice stating whether you will be in a position at the First Appointment to proceed on that occasion to a FDR Appointment

Once you understand what this Notice is getting at, it’s really easy to complete. But first you need to know what’s likely to happen at the First Appointment. And you need to understand the importance of the FDR Appointment (“FDR” stands for Financial Dispute Resolution).

First Appointment

What’s the First Appointment all about? I’ll give you some pointers. But it’s important to remember that if your case involves valuable property, a business or pensions, and/or your ex is uncooperative, it’s a good idea to get advice from an expert family lawyer.

Before the hearing

  1. You’ll have exchanged your documents with your ex and both of you will have filed them in the Court.
  2. Don’t forget to fill in Form H with details of your costs.

At the hearing

  1. Hand you Form H to your ex and to the Court.
  2. Ask the Court to order expert evidence, often vital for pensions and businesses. Also helpful if eg
    • you can’t agree the valuation of the family home
    • your ex is saying they can’t earn an income because of poor health and you don’t agree
  3. You will also ask the Court to order your ex to answer the questions you have raised in your questionnaire.

Matrimonial finances in the “fast lane”

But it’s possible to ask the Court for a FDR Appointment instead of a First Appointment. How? You fill in the “Notice stating whether you will be in a position at the First Appointment to proceed to a FDR Appointment” sent to you by the Court. This means you will “leapfrog” to the next hearing and so speed up the Court process.

What’s the FDR Appointment

At the FDR the Court will:

  • encourage you to come to an agreement and
  • the Court will give you an indication of what it thinks a fair outcome would be.

This can be a real wake up call for some.

When to bypass the First Appointment and aim straight for the FDR

  1. You’re happy with your ex’s financial disclosure, and you
  2. Don’t need expert evidence, but
  3. Can’t agree a financial settlement.

What happens if you can’t agree a settlement at the FDR

This is the subject of my next blog.

What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – Part 3

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – part 3. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – Part 3 are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for What Happens after Financial Disclosure in Divorce – Part 3 Mavericks by Shalom Jacobovitz Wikimedia Commons This image has been digitally manipulated

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