This article will provide a snapshot of the court proceedings in an application for a financial remedy. Firstly it is important to highlight that there are alternative ways of resolving financial disputes namely, discussions between the parties, solicitor lead negotiations, mediation, collaborative law and arbitration.
Form A and the MIAM
A Form A is a court document used to start a financial claim in divorce or civil partnership proceedings and can be sent to the court at any time after the petition has been filed. The court fee for initiating financial proceedings is currently £255. The Form A is sent to the court dealing with the divorce or civil partnership proceedings for allocation.
Prior to issue and in most circumstances, the applicant will need to obtain a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting), unless an exemption applies. MIAM’s were introduced on 22 April 2014 in the hope that more people would turn to alternative dispute resolution rather than litigation. A MIAM is a meeting conducted by an authorised family mediator during which they will assess the appropriateness of mediation as a means of resolving the financial negotiations. Parties can attend separately or together. If the intention is to engage in court proceedings, it might be more appropriate to attend separately. The mediator will have to contact the other party in any event. The MIAM is valid for fourth months.
Once you have the MIAM the Form A can be sent to the court, together with the requisite court fee. After it is received, the court will issue proceedings.
Form E and First Appointment documents
The court will send both parties a ‘Notice of Financial Proceedings’ which details:-
- a date for the exchange of Form E;
- a date for First Appointment documents which include a:-
- statement of information
- chronology; and
- Form G.
- a date for the First Appointment.
What happens at court during the financial remedy process?
The court process provides for three hearings – First Appointment, a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing (FDR) and a Final Hearing.
The first hearing, the First Appointment, is fixed by the court and takes places at least 12 weeks and not more than 16 weeks after the date Form A is filed. This hearing is administrative in nature and its purpose is to define the issues in the case with the aim of savings costs. The court will look at and consider the following:-
- the questionnaires of both parties, the extent to which they need to be answered and a date for replies to be filed and served;
- whether the value of jointly owned properties and/ or properties in the sole names of the parties or held jointly with third parties are in dispute. If they are, do experts need to be appointed;
- is there a need for a business valuation or pension report.
At First Appointment, the court will give directions to advance matters and assist with overall resolution. In a nutshell, the purpose of the First Appointment is to make sure the court has all the material it needs to assist the parties in reaching a resolution at the next hearing, the FDR.
FDR – the financial dispute resolution hearing
This is the second court hearing. By this time both parties should have provided full disclosure and the true asset base should be known. The FDR is a unique hearing and it takes place ‘without prejudice’. The Judge that hears the FDR can have no further involvement in the case and either party might be willing to make concessions that they may not make if matters proceeded to a final hearing.
The role of the Judge at the FDR is to assist the parties in reaching a financial agreement by giving an indication of what he/she thinks the likely outcome would be at a trial. This is only an indication and it is not binding. Nothing conceded on a ‘without prejudice’ can be referred to at trial.
Many cases settle at FDR in which case the Judge is able to approve it, creating a binding court order. If the case does not settle, the court will give directions for the matter to proceed to the Final Hearing.
This is the third and Final Hearing in the court process. The complexity of the case will be determine the listing time. At this hearing, the judge will make a final determination i.e. taking control away from the parties.
Rayden Solicitors is a specialist family law firm. If you require any advice, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01727 734260