The benefits of private Financial Dispute Resolution hearings

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Most divorcing couples will need to resolve the financial matters that arise as a result. If they are unable to reach agreement between them, then they will have to make an application to the Court. Potentially, there are three hearings involved: a directions appointment, a financial dispute resolution appointment (FDR) and a final hearing.

In most cases, the first appointment will automatically become an FDR hearing if all financial information is available. At an FDR, a Judge will give the parties a neutral opinion of the likely outcome if matters proceed to a final hearing. The intention of the FDR is to reduce conflict and considerable further legal fees by avoiding a final hearing. It must be said that very few parties are happy with the outcome of a final hearing, as a Judge will impose an Order upon them.

The option of a private FDR hearing has recently been made available to couples. This can be arranged much sooner than a Court hearing, allowing the couple to avoid delay in getting their case heard and resolved. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, access to Courts is currently limited and there has been a shift towards remote and hybrid hearings. Given that the complexity of most financial arrangements means that remote and hybrid hearings are unsuitable models for dealing with them, private FDR hearings will be an increasingly valuable alternative.

A private FDR is heard by a specialist Solicitor, Barrister, or retired Judge. This individual will be the dedicated Judge for the entire day and they will therefore have ample opportunity to read the case papers, unlike our increasingly busy judiciary. The couple can have their own legal representatives present to speak to the Judge on their behalf and they will not have to give any evidence as they would at a final hearing.

The success rate at private FDRs is higher than those conducted by the Court, and 80% of private FDRs are resolved by agreement.

At a private FDR, the couple will choose their own Judge and will usually pay the Judge’s fees equally. The hearing can take place at a less intimidating venue than a Court and can even be conducted remotely.

Private FDRs are suitable for couples who are far apart in their positions but want to reach an agreed settlement if possible. The expert input of a neutral third party can help to find a compromise position and the Judge in such a case will be a specialist in family law, which is not necessarily so in ordinary Court proceedings.

Unlike arbitration, the Judge’s indication is not binding but is intended to aid settlement and reduce fees.

At Buckles, we can access Barristers Chambers who would be able to provide these services for our clients.