If you want to resolve a financial dispute with your former spouse or civil partner, you need to make an application to the Court. The party making the application is called ‘Applicant’ and the other party is called ‘Respondent’. Before each hearing, the applicant is responsible for preparing all the documents needed for the case.
If you are the applicant, make sure to take help from an expert. Aristone Solicitors can help you prepare documents for the case.
What happens when the Court receives the application?
Once the Court receives an application, it will give you directions for the proceedings and the date and time of the first hearing.
Five weeks before the first hearing, both parties need to file with the Court and exchange with each other a completed Financial Disclosure Form where they provide details of their financial situation.
Two weeks before the first hearing, both parties need to file with the court and exchange with each other the following:
- A short statement about the financial dispute
- List of important events in the marriage
- A questionnaire in case you have queries about the other party’s Financial Disclosure Form
- A form where you mention whether you will use the first hearing only for directions or for negotiation. (This allows the Court to allocate sufficient time for the first hearing)
How do the Court proceedings take place?
If the first hearing is only for directions, it will last for 30 minutes and the District Judge will preside over it.
However, if you want to negotiate in the first hearing itself, the hearing will be longer since the judge will try to settle the dispute. If it is not settled, the Court will give a date for the next hearing. Before the next hearing, the parties will need to gather more information. The Court may ask pension and property details. It may also provide a questionnaire that both parties need to fill by a certain date.
Financial Dispute Resolution:
The second hearing is usually called FDR (Financial Dispute resolution) since this is when the Court will focus on settlement. But, as mentioned above, if negotiation begins in the first hearing, then that becomes FDR. The legal costs can be reduced if FDR takes place in the first hearing.
In the FDR, both parties will make their own proposals for a settlement. The Judge will consider which one is appropriate. If the dispute is settled, the Court will prepare a formal agreement and end the proceedings. If it isn’t settled, you will get a date for a third and final hearing. The Court will tell both parties what further information it needs to settle the issue. For example, the Court may ask both parties to prepare a detailed statement.
Very few cases reach this stage since most disputes are settled in the FDR. In the final hearing, the applicant first presents the case and then the respondent. The evidence is examined and parties are cross-examined. After considering the evidence, the Judge makes an order even if the parties have not reached an agreement.
How does the Court make a decision?
While the Court bases its decision on the principles from legislation and case law, each judge will use his own discretion and come to an appropriate decision looking at the case at hand. So, it is not possible to predict the exact outcome.
If there are children involved, the Court will first consider their financial needs. It will also consider other factors like:
- Financial resources and earning capacity of both parties
- Standard of living enjoyed before the breakdown
- Age of both parties and length of the marriage or civil partnership
- Significant contributions (even non-economic) made by the parties to the relationship
- Present and future financial needs of both parties
If there was a financial agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage or civil partnership, it will have a major impact on what the Court decides.