Last year, as shown through Family Court Statistics Quarterly published 28th September, during the course of the period between April and June, the number of financial remedy applications was up 20% from the same period in 2022. This is a huge increase and clearly shows that more disputes relating to matrimonial finances are ending up within Court proceedings.
This increase has also meant a drastic increase in the time it takes the Court to deal with these proceedings.
The traditional Court process can be best described by setting out the three possible hearings that can take place, these are:
These hearings generally take place in that order although sometimes the circumstances are such that an FDA can be skipped so that the first hearing is the FDR.
Increasingly people are looking for alternatives to the traditional Court process to achieve a fair and satisfactory conclusion to the financial claims arising from divorce/dissolution.
One such alternative is known as a Private FDR Hearing. This can take place before Court proceedings are issued or proceedings can be adjourned for this to take place. Recent case law, as in the case of AS v CS 2021, informs us that most judges will accept Private FDR as a reason for dispensing with the court FDR.
A usual FDR is essentially a Court arranged mediation exercise and its overriding purpose is to assist the parties in agreeing on a settlement. Most cases will settle at FDR. Having heard both parties’ positions a Judge will give an indication of how they would decide a case at Final Hearing, based on the facts involved. The Judge will then allow without prejudice negotiations to take place at the hearing and will provide input at various stages of the negotiations.
What a private FDR does is mirrors this process, but it is done with a privately appointed Judge at a venue of the parties’ choosing. The main advantages of a private FDR are that you can have your private FDR as soon as you are ready, you can choose your FDR Judge (they will be Barrister or retired Judge), you can choose your venue and you will have the Judge for as long as you need them on the day. Conversely, within the traditional Court approach, your Judge will be dealing with a number of other FDR Hearings that day.
While many argue that the main disadvantage of Private FDR is that they are expensive, it is not necessarily the case when taking into account the costs incurred as a result of the severely limited flexibility of the Court that can lead to extensive time delays and hearings being cancelled at the last minute.
We understand that divorce is daunting. We know that the implications of the Court’s involvement can have significant negative effects on our clients that do not only relate to cost. We appreciate that clients are concerned about the process generally, the length in time, the pressure on their social and work life and the formality of the Court.
We are therefore committed to helping our clients resolve their cases in the most cost effective and expeditious method possible. Our extensive knowledge and experience enables us to advise our clients on the alternatives to Court proceedings, such as Private FDRs, which might better suit their case.