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Financial applications in relation to Divorce

Financial Applications in relation to Divorce

Whilst most separating spouses wish to avoid the necessity of having to involve the court to reach an agreement in relation to the financial arrangements between them, for many there is no other option.  It is always advisable to explore all the options available before making financial applications in relation to divorce with the court, as the process can incur significant legal fees and it is not necessary for everyone.

There are many alternative methods that can be utilised to assist you reaching an agreement with your spouse such as mediation, collaborative law or round table meetings.   For more information on these methods, see here or call our offices to discuss further with one of our solicitors.

If these options have not been successful and it is clear an agreement is not going to be reached, there may be no alternative but to make a financial application in relation to divorce with the court for its assistance.  This does not have to be seen as an aggressive move, but as a step to secure a court timetable to assist with full and frank financial disclosure and with directing you through the process generally.   Below I have detailed the process that the Court follows regarding financial applications in relation to divorce.

Mediation – MIAMs

Before an application is made to the court you will need to ensure you have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMs).  The purpose of this meeting is for a mediator to provide you with information on the mediation process and to establish whether it is suitable for you and your spouse.  You can attend this meeting with your spouse or you can attend on your own.  If you have already attended mediation you will not need to undertake this step again.   If, following the discussion with the mediator, you decide that mediation is not suitable for you, or mediation breaks down following attendance by you and your spouse, then the mediator will complete a form on your behalf (called an FM1) which you will need in order to make your application to the court.  There are some circumstances where you may be exempt from having to attend a MIAMs, but for most people it is compulsory.

The Application

Once you have attended your MIAMs you will be ready to make your application.  If you have instructed your solicitor she will complete the application form on your behalf.  The application is made on Form A and will be sent to the court with your FM1 and the court fee, which is currently £255.

Once the court has received your application the first hearing (called a First Directions Appointment or FDA) will be listed not less than 12 weeks and not more than 16 weeks after the date on which the application was filed.  The court will send a sealed copy of your application along with a notice of the FDA to both you and your spouse (or you solicitors if you have them acting on your behalf).

The court will direct that both you and your spouse complete Form Es.  These forms are used to effect full and frank financial disclosure.  The form is 20 pages or so and requires you both to set out fully what your financial circumstances are.  You will both be required to annex documents in support, for example 12 months’ bank statements, credit card statements, a valuation of any property you own etc.   These forms are then exchanged before the first hearing to provide you both with a clear picture of what is available for distribution.

In addition to the Form E there are further documents which will need to be completed at least 14 days before the FDA.  These documents are as follows:-

  1. A statement of issues between you and your spouse.
  2. A chronology of any relevant events and the proceedings, for example when you were both born, when your children were born (if relevant), when you separated, when Form A was issued etc.
  3. A summary of case providing the court with a brief background.
  4. A questionnaire setting out what further information is missing or required following the exchange of Form Es (the financial statements).
  5. A notice in Form G stating whether you will be in a position at the first appointment to proceed to a Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (please see the paragraph below in relation to the FDR).

Your solicitor will complete these documents for you from your instructions and will also complete a Form H before every hearing.  A Form H sets out to the court what your legal costs have been up until that stage so that the court can keep an eye on costs.  The chronology, statement of issues and summary of case will be updated by your solicitor before each hearing.

A day or so before the hearing your solicitor (or a barrister if one has been instructed) will prepare a Position Statement.  This document sets out your case and what you wish to achieve from the hearing and why the court should order what you are requesting.  Again, this will be updated before each hearing.

FDA – First Directions Appointment

At the first hearing the court will determine which questions raised from one party to another should be answered.   Further directions will be made by the court as required.  These will of course vary from case to case depending on the circumstances, for example where there is a dispute on how much a property or a business is worth it may be that the court provides a direction for it to be valued.

FDR – Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment

The FDR will normally take place when all the evidence has been exchanged between the parties and the outstanding issues can be identified.   A statement of issues, a chronology and all offers made to date will need to be filed at court in advance of the hearing date. The purpose of the FDR is for discussions and negotiations to take place with a view to a settlement being reached.  The judge at this hearing will provide guidance on what he advises is a reasonable settlement but is not able to impose an order.  The hearing is on a privileged or without prejudice basis.  This means that anything discussed at this hearing will not be repeated at the final hearing if an agreement is not reached.  The judge at this hearing will have no further involvement with the case.  This is to encourage both parties to “put all their cards on the table”.

If a settlement cannot be reached then a final hearing will be listed along with any necessary directions.

Final Hearing

At this hearing both you and your spouse will provide oral evidence in court and the judge will also consider any written evidence provided.  The judge will then give judgement or reserve it to a later date if he requires more time to consider matters.  This will be formalised into a consent order which will then become binding once the final stage of your divorce has been obtained, the Decree Absolute.

If you have any queries in relation to how the financial process works, financial applications in relation to divorce or want to make an appointment to discuss the appropriate options for your case, then please contact us.

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