Financial applications were previously called applications for “ancillary relief”. There are various types, but most are commended through divorce proceedings and subject to The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
Application for a Financial Order (formerly called application for Ancillary Relief)
If an application is necessary, this is made by one party – usually the Petitioner – making a formal application to the Court by way of a printed form signed by ourselves. A court fee is payable.
The Court issue the application form, give the matter a first hearing, known as a First Appointment, and serve a Notice of First Appointment on the other party. The Court must serve the Notice of First Appointment within 4 days after Form A is filed. The Notice contains details of when the appointment will take place which is usually about three months from the date of issue, how long it will be – 30 minutes is the norm – and details of what steps need to be taken prior to that appointment.
At least 35 days (5 weeks) before the First Appointment, you must give details of your financial affairs to the Court and to the other side. This is done by you completing a Form E financial form, with our assistance. The Form E contains details of your income, outgoings, assets and liabilities. Various documents are required to be attached to the Form, called “required documents”.
They are property valuations obtained in the last 6 months, most recent mortgage statement, last 12 months’ bank statements, surrender values of insurance policies, last 2 years’ business accounts, valuation of pension rights, last 3 payslips and most recent P60.
Filing and simultaneous exchange of Form E, completed and sworn by each party, and containing the information and attaching the documents required by the Form, and any other documents necessary to explain or clarify the information, then takes place.
At least 14 days before the First Appointment, each party must file and serve on the other a questionnaire of things it will be necessary for the other side to answer – usually as a result of what their Form E contains – together with a list of documents that will be required from them. These usually support what is said about their financial circumstances in their Form E.
The Court will also require from us a concise statement of the apparent issues between the parties as well as a notice giving details of what legal costs you have incurred up to and including
the First Appointment. Finally, the Court will want to know whether we are able to proceed at the First Appointment to the Financial Dispute Resolution.
First Appointment Hearing
The First Appointment gives the Court an opportunity to look at the case generally, try to find out what is required to further the matter and whether any agreement to settle can be reached.
The Judge will discuss the questionnaires and requests for documents with both sides’ legal representatives and will make an Order that each of you deal with the questions and provision of documentation within a certain time scale. The Judge has the power to strike out any question or request for documents if he or she thinks it is inappropriate and will not further the case. Other directions may be given such as obtaining a joint valuation of property if valuation cannot be agreed.
Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (FDR)
A date is then set for the next hearing called a Financial Dispute Resolution. This can take place as quickly as two months from the First Appointment and regularly does so. By the time this appointment takes place, the questionnaires should have been answered and copy documents provided. Any valuations should be agreed where at all possible as it is very expensive to have Valuers to come to Court to give evidence upon their valuation.
The Financial Dispute Resolution is an opportunity to try to settle the matter by agreement and most sides will have made offers to each other on a without prejudice basis prior to this hearing. These offers are filed with the Court as well as being sent to the other side. A Barrister will frequently represent a part at this hearing as he or she has much experience in negotiation face to face and presenting arguments to the Court.
Very often lengthy negotiations will take place before the case is called before the Judge and the Court is always ready to allow more time for such negotiation if it is proving productive and a settlement is likelyto be achieved.
It is financially cheaper and less stressful to reach a settlement rather than to proceed to a final hearing. Many Judges will give a good indication of what they think the settlement should be and anything they have to say on this subject should be listened to very carefully.
If agreement is reached, a hand written order will be drawn up for everyone to sign, the Judge will approve it and that will be the end of the proceedings, save for putting into effect the terms of the agreed Order. A typed up copy of the Order comes from the Court usually within two weeks.
If agreement cannot be reached, the matter is listed for a final hearing which is usually for one day of Court time.
Again, this is usually heard within two months of the Financial Dispute Resolution taking place.
At the final hearing the Judge (a different one from the person who heard the Financial Dispute Resolution) will hear the case. You will be required to give evidence upon Oath as will the other side.
If valuations are not agreed, this is the time that the Valuers come to give verbal evidence and any other evidence is presented to the Court.Having heard both sides and taken careful note of all the evidence, the Judge will then make a decision, give the reasons for his decision (his judgement) and make an Order.
If the terms of the Order are disputed, an Appeal can be lodged within 14 days from the date of the Order and if this is inappropriate to your matter then we will discuss it with you after the final hearing.
The ancillary relief rules are a procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the Court to deal with cases justly. Dealing with a case justly includes so far as is practicable:
- ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing;
- saving expense;
- dealing with the case in ways which are proportionate:-
- to the amount of money involved;
- to the importance of money involved;
- to the complexity of the issues; and
- to the financial position of each party;
- ensuring that it is dealt with expeditiously and fairly; and
- allotting to it an appropriate share of the Court’s resources, while taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases.
The Court must seek to give effect to the overriding objective when it:
- exercises any power given to it by the ancillary relief rules; or
- interprets any rule.
The parties are required to help the Court to further the overriding objective. The Court must further the overriding objective by actively managing cases. Active case management includes:
- encouraging the parties to co-operate with each other in the conduct of the proceedings;
- encouraging the parties to settle their disputes through mediation, where appropriate;
- identifying the issues at an early date;
- regulating the extent of disclosure of documents and expert evidence so that they are proportionate to the issues in question;
- helping the parties to settle the whole or part of the case;
- fixing timetables or otherwise controlling the progress of the case;
- making use of technology; and giving directions to ensure that the trial of a case proceeds quickly and efficiently.
This information sheet is produced on the basis that your case will run relatively smoothly as do most cases. However, there are some occasions where additional hearings may be necessary or
other matters need dealing with and again we will discuss these with you at the time of the problem arising.