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Understanding Financial Proceedings in Divorce

Our People - Damla Tasyurdu
13 June, 2024

Going through a divorce is emotionally challenging, and dealing with finances during this time can add significant stress. Before finalising your divorce, it’s crucial to address financial matters as your legal status can impact your entitlements. This article will guide you through the key steps of financial proceedings in a divorce, along with some options for resolving them amicably.

Initiating the financial proceedings process

In most cases, before applying for a financial remedy order, UK courts require divorcing or separating couples to consider mediation, with some exceptions. This is a collaborative dispute resolution process where a neutral third-party mediator guides you and your ex-partner in reaching a mutually agreeable financial settlement, avoiding the need for court proceedings.

Both the husband and wife have a duty to be honest about their financial position and need to disclose their financial position. Financial proceedings can take between 12 and 18 months to conclude.

Financial remedy proceedings begin with these three key stages:

  1. MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)
  2. Completing form A and notice of first appointment
  3. Completing and exchanging form E

1. MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)

The first step is attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Here, a qualified mediator will discuss your situation, explain the mediation process in detail, and assess if it’s suitable for your case

Even if you choose not to pursue family mediation, attending the MIAM is mandatory in most cases. A MIAM certificate issued by the mediator will be required by your solicitor to proceed with a court application for a financial remedy order.

2. Completing form A and notice of first appointment

You begin your claim by completing Form A and issuing it at court. The court will then send both parties a notice of first appointment. This notice will include some key dates and actions that both parties must follow, known as “directions”.

3. Completing and exchanging form E

The most important direction to comply with is to complete a Form E which sets out the financial position of each party. Evidence needs to be provided to support what is contained in the Form E and this form needs to be sent to both the other party and to the court. If your ex-partner doesn’t return their Form E, you may need to take further steps with the court to compel them to do so.

The three stages of financial hearings in divorce

To manage the financial aspects of your divorce, you’ll likely encounter three key court hearings. Each stage serves a specific purpose, from gathering information to facilitating settlement and, if necessary, reaching a final decision. We’ll explore each stage in detail, breaking down the process and what to expect at each step.

Financial remedy proceedings move forward with these three key court hearings:

  1. First appointment hearing (FDA)
  2. Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR)?
  3. Final hearing

1. First appointment hearing (FDA)

A first appointment hearing is the first of three main court hearings. It is an evidence gathering hearing and you will need to ask the court for directions you might need in your case to establish the financial position of both parties.

One of the most common directions given is for a questionnaire to be answered by both parties. The questions asked in the questionnaire aims to fill any gaps of information not set out in the Form E.

Also, a schedule of deficiencies may be requested later down the line depending on the replies to the questionnaire which may need further explanation.

2. Financial dispute resolution hearing (FDR)?

A ‘financial dispute resolution’ hearing is the second stage of the process. The sole focus is to help the parties to reach a settlement and avoid a final hearing. During this hearing the Judge gives an indication as to what the likely outcome of the case is.

An FDR hearing is usually where both parties will make offers to each other. They are allowed to negotiate and the Judge will try to help them settle. If the parties agree and settle then a final hearing will not take place.

Once this stage is complete and if the parties do not settle, the final hearing will take place. The judge who heard the FDR hearing is not allowed to be present at the final hearing.

3. Final hearing

The final hearing will usually be the third and final court hearing. This will only take place if matters cannot be resolved. How assets are split is out of the parties’ hands and the Judge will make a decision on both parties’ financial position and impose a settlement. Judgement will determine how the assets are to be divided. The financial order made by the judge cannot be changed unless very specific circumstances arise which is rarely the case.

Who deals with child maintenance?

If there are children involved during these proceedings, the court will take this into consideration and, if both parties agree an amount for child maintenance, the court will record this in a final order. However, if the parties do not agree then it will need to be dealt with through the Child Maintenance Service which can be accessed through the government website. Child maintenance can be dealt with in family court but only in specific circumstances.

Contact a specialist divorce lawyer

Many couples considering divorce might wonder if a formal financial agreement is necessary. While reaching an amicable understanding is ideal, unforeseen circumstances can arise later. To protect your financial future and ensure a clean break, a financial order approved by the court is highly recommended.

If you are going through divorce proceedings or plan to apply for a divorce and finances will need to be dealt with, please feel free to contact our experienced Divorce Lawyers or call us on 020 8492 2290.

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