FDR hearing and the First Appointment
If you apply for a financial order the court will schedule a financial dispute resolution hearing, an 'FDR hearing'. This is a private court appointment. The FDR provides an opportunity to try to reach a financial settlement.
FDR First Appointment
Before the First Appointment, each party will have exchanged a document known as Form E which contains financial information.
This means that at the first appointment at which you and your legal advisers have to attend, the court will be in possession of a substantial amount of information about the ﬁnancial issues between you.
In short, the purpose of the hearing, which may last an hour or more, is to see if it is possible to come to an overall ﬁnancial settlement. Frequently, but not always, this objective is achieved, and the judge can then make an order, which once complied with will mean that your case has been concluded.
If not, at the First Appointment hearing, discussions will take place with the judge as to what, if any, additional information is required before the case is ready to proceed to the next stage and a judge will set out an agenda for your case, which could for example give a time scale within which the questions at 2.2 below must be answered, or that a valuation(s) be made, or other evidence be ﬁled.
Only if the FDR is unsuccessful will the judge
further directions (make further orders about the way the case will go forward) and will ﬁx a date for a ﬁnal hearing, probably many months ahead.
Chronology Statement of Issues and Questionnaire
Before the first appointment both of you have to exchange and ﬁle at court:
2.1 A concise statement of the issues in dispute;
2.2 A questionnaire setting out what further information and documents should be (in addition to any documents already provided) relevant to the issues stated to be in dispute in the statement of issues;
A draft questionnaire will also be prepared, for the other party to answer. This questionnaire is based upon a statement of issues, which is another document filed with the court. In a statement of issues document the party explains what the issues are in the case and what still needs to be answered by means of the questionnaire, before the matter can proceed.
2.3 A notice in Form G (which I explain below).
FDR and Final Hearing
The FDR hearing is a private court hearing, which provides an opportunity for the case to settle. However, this is not a certainty.
Settling a case at an FDR hearing is far from easy because clients know they can hold out until a final hearing. In this instance, if there is no possibility of compromise between the parties the case will move to the third and final stage.
Conducting a negotiation between feuding former spouses is arguably a tougher challenge for the judge than arriving at a judgment. If the judge can’t successfully push both sides to compromise and arrive at an agreement, then the dispute is prolonged and will go to a lengthier and more costly, Final Hearing. In the final hearing, control over the outcome of the dispute is surrendered to the judge.
However, even if you don’t reach an agreement during the FDR hearing, it’s a good idea to continue to try to negotiate a resolution before the final hearing. If you can reach an agreement prior to the final hearing, you will limit costs and the strain of an ongoing dispute. It can also save time, as the time between a financial dispute resolution hearing and a final hearing date is usually several months.
A Form G is technically called a Notice of Response to First Appointment. It is a document that is used in Financial Remedy proceedings during a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.
When one party issues a Financial Remedy application at Court (using a Form A), the Court lists a First Appointment and sets down a timetable for the exchange of financial information and the preparation of mandatory documents. This is done in a document called a Form C or Notice of First Appointment.
One of the mandatory documents that must be prepared in line with a Form C is a Form G (Notice of Response to First Appointment). This form is used by the parties to inform the Court how they want to use the First Appointment.
If there is outstanding information (e.g. if full financial disclosure has not been made or questionnaires have not been answered) or valuation issues (e.g. relating to property or company) or if a pension report is required, the First Appointment can only be used as a directions hearing. This allows the Court to further timetable the case so that the outstanding issues can be resolved to allow the parties to move to the negotiation stage.
If there is no outstanding information or issues regarding valuations and the parties are in a position to move to the negotiation stage, they can dispense with a directions appointment and use the First Appointment as a FDR hearing.
The Form G must be lodged 14 days before the First Appointment and it is used by each party to indicate to the Court whether or not they are in a position to use the First Appointment as the FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution) hearing and their reasons why.