In Matrimonial Finances when proceedings are issued, there are typically three potential hearings, the second of which is known as the Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing the “FDR”, which is an opportunity for the parties to set out their financial position to the Court, and the Judge to give his or her indication as to what they feel would be a likely outcome of the application, should it progress to a final hearing.
The idea is that this hearing provides a platform to negotiate, narrow the issues and try and achieve a fair settlement.
The last two years have put an unprecedented amount of pressure on the Court system, with the pandemic resulting in cases taking longer to be listed for hearing, and judges having less time to hear them. Whilst we are hopefully entering the final stages of the pandemic, the pressure on the Court system shows no sign of retreating.
The FDR is a really important hearing to give an opportunity to be able to progress the matter to achieve a settlement.
With the delays and practical issues that the Court system has, one option is to opt for a Private FDR. This is where you can temporarily move out of the Court system, and instruct a barrister to sit as a judge and hear the FDR.
Both parties would agree the barrister who would conduct the hearing, and usually the costs would be split between the parties.
What is the advantage of a Private FDR?
- A private FDR can usually be heard quicker than the traditional Court FDR, due to the pressures of the Court listings, and as any client will agree, time in these proceedings is of the essence as without a financial agreement, all parties remain in an uncertain position as to how the future will look, and the longer cases take, the more likely the costs are to increase.
- A barrister instructed to conduct a private FDR, will dedicate the whole of the day to your case, rather than you fitting into a court listing, where a judge will be tasked with more than one FDR hearing in a day. This means that he or she can dedicate time to read and consider the papers, hear the parties representatives and provide a thorough evaluation of the case and an impartial view of what the likely outcome could look like if it proceeded to final hearing.
- Having that time, provides an invaluable opportunity for all parties during the course of the day to reflect, negotiate and hopefully agree a settlement. Having a private FDR also gives the advocates the opportunity of going back to the judge during the course of the day, should they wish to clarify any issues or request specific indication which may help the negotiation.
- A private FDR will be conducted traditionally in chambers, although currently many are still being conducted by video platform. Whether in person or by video link it is also usually a less stressful experience than being in Court.
- By settling at this stage it will save costs and time. Costs in such cases cannot be underestimated, and should always be proportionate to the assets. So whilst there is a cost involved in engaging a private FDR judge, if time is saved and agreement can be reached, this will save future costs and time. The costs of the FDR judge will vary on their seniority, and your solicitor can provide you with options of barristers who conduct private FDR’s as part or all of their practice.
Whilst settlement at this stage can never be guaranteed, it is a good option to give serious consideration to, so to potentially avoid delays, future legal costs, and the stress of the ongoing proceedings.
If this is an option you would like to explore, please contact one of the private law team at Boardman Hawkins and Osborne and we would be more than happy to discuss the options with you.
Helen Bishop, Consultant Solicitor