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

Read the article

How do I get a Consent Order? A simple guide

How do I get a Consent Order?
Rosalind Russell in the 1949 movie ‘Tell it to the Judge’ – and that, in essence, is what a Consent Order is all about

  What’s a Consent Order?

You’ve agreed the matrimonial finances. The next step is to get a Consent Order so you know it’s done and dusted. Once it’s made, neither of you can:

  • go back on the agreement
  • come back for a second bite of the cherry.

  How do I get a Consent Order?

Contact an experienced family lawyer because your Consent Order needs to be technically accurate.

  When’s the best time to get a Consent Order?

As soon as you are in agreement. But did you know that a Consent Order cannot be made by the Court until your decree nisi has been pronounced?

  What do I send to the Court?

  What’s a ‘statement of information for Consent Order’?

This sets out your finances. It’s vital to complete it accurately. See my blog Financial Disclosure on Divorce – 10 Things You Need To Know for the dire consequences of being less than frank in financial disclosure.

  What will the Court do?

The Court’s duty is to make sure the Consent Order is fair, makes proper financial provision, and is technically correct. The Court will firstly consider the welfare of any children. It will then consider your –

  • income, earning capacity, property
  • financial needs
  • standard of living during marriage
  • ages and length of marriage 
  • disabilities
  • contributions made 
  • conduct if it would be inequitable to disregard it

If the Court isn’t convinced it’s fair, or if the order is technically incorrect, they will raise queries. These can mostly be dealt with by letter. Occasionally there can be a short Court hearing.

If you want to make sure you come to a fair agreement, read my blog Financial Settlement on Divorce, How To Get The Best One For You – 5 FAQs.

  How can a Consent Order be wrong?

If it’s unfair. For example if one of you ends up with valuable assets but the other doesn’t. But this can sometimes be fair if there are unusual circumstances such as a short marriage. See my blog Short Marriages – 10 Things You Need To Know

  How else can a Consent Order be wrong?

If there are technical errors. The Court can only make certain orders. These include:

  How to get a Consent Order right

The simplest answer is to ask an experienced family lawyer to draft it for you.

  What’s a recital/preamble?

The paragraphs above the words “By Consent it is Ordered“. What’s included?

  • Agreements that can’t be orders
  • Undertakings to the Court (an undertaking is a solemn promise to the Court)

For example to return the oil painting of your mother in law. Or to take turns looking after Rover, the beloved family pet. Or to pay the mortgage on the family home. This is relevant if the house will be yours but the mortgage is still in joint names because of financial constraints.

  But what happens if my ex ignores what’s in the recital/preamble?

You can make an application to the Court for enforcement.

  When does a Consent Order come into effect?

When it’s sealed by the Court, or when your decree absolute is obtained, whichever is later.

  How do I get a Consent Order?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How do I get a Consent Order? 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 How do I get a Consent Order? 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 credit for How do I get a Consent Order? Columbia’s ‘Tell it to the Judge’

 

Read the article