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Court proceedings

Has mediation broken down? Do you need to issue court proceedings to protect you and the family assets, obtain emergency orders, obtain full and frank disclosure, set a timetable or simply resolve an issue that cannot successfully be negotiated?

We can issue court proceedings for you, prepare documentation and advise on settlement options throughout the court process. We will represent you at court or instruct a barrister, if appropriate.

Court proceedings, however, are usually regarded as the last case scenario as they are expensive, time-consuming and can create acrimony which may affect your long term relationships with your former partner and wider family members.

We rarely recommend that court proceedings are issued as we do not consider that the best way of separated family to resolve its issues is to let the court decide rather than you. Nor do we believe that entering into an adversarial process is the best way forward for family members but alas sometimes they become necessary or indeed a financial application may have been served upon you.

We can represent you through court proceedings either on a full represented service or on a pay as you go basis.

There are five stages to the financial court process and only a small minority of cases are unresolved until the end. The process is as follows:-

  1. The application is issued and first hearing date allocated. Orders are made for financial disclosure to be produced on Form E;
  2. Forms E are completed by each party, served and filed at court;
  3. The first hearing “FDA”(First Directions Appointment) is a short hearing dealing with the adequacy of the information before the court and identifying the additional information needed. Orders can be made by the court e.g. for an actuarial or surveyors report.
  4. The second hearing “FDR” (Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing) take place once all financial documentation is before the court. Informed decisions can be made about the settlement options. Each party represents their case to the court and the District Judge provides an indication as to the order he would be minded to make if hearing the matter as a final order. This concentrates the mind and enables without prejudice negotiation to continue. Regularly, an agreement is reached at this stage and an order drafted.
  5. The final hearing is an adversarial hearing where you will be represented by a barrister and your case will be presented to the court by a process of examination, cross-examination, and submissions. This is likely to be expensive and stressful and you lose autonomy over your future as the court will make an order that you are bound by having heard the evidence.

A court process can be useful if you need interim order such as maintenance or orders freezing assets.

For children matters, the process is generally as follows:-

  1. The application is issued and served on the parties and Cafcass who then contact the parties to ascertain if there are any safeguarding issues affecting the children;
  2. The first hearing is an “FHDRA” (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment). This can be heard before the Magistrates or a District Judge. If possible all parties aim to reach an agreement at this point, with support from Cafcass. If this is possible a final order is drawn yup. However id there are welfare or safeguarding issues, the court may order a Cafcass report to be filed, a children’s wishes and feelings report, other expert evidence or narrative statements on the issues in dispute from the parties.
  3. In more complex cases, there will be a review at a Final directions hearing before the final hearing is dealt with.
  4. A final child arrangements order will be made at the final hearing which is likely to involve oral evidence being given. The order is binding but may be varied at a later date if this is necessary for the order to continue to be in the best interests of the children.

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