Removing the uncertainty: the Financial Remedy Court Efficiency Statement
The Financial Remedy Court Efficiency Statement was published on 11th January and applies to all financial applications on divorce (other than High Court cases) with immediate effect. Here members of our London Family Law team, partner, Joanna Toloczko and paralegal, Dion Bird outline the changes and how they will affect our clients.
What was the problem?
The process for determining financial remedy cases involves three stages, which each end with a court hearing. At the end of the second stage the parties will take part in a Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing. This hearing is designed to encourage the parties to reach an agreement and avoid a full hearing.
The committee tasked with looking into the operation of the Financial Remedy Court and recommending improvements found that around 30% of cases settled before the FDR and a further 50% between the FDR and the final hearing.
The problem was that prior to the pandemic it was taking on average a year for a case to be listed for an FDR and 84 weeks to be listed for a final hearing. Those waiting times have undoubtedly increased as a result of the pandemic and the growing backlog of cases.
What are the aims of the new rules?
The aims of the new rules are to encourage the parties to get the preparatory work done earlier so that they can negotiate effectively and settle cases much more quickly.
What are the main changes?
All cases will be allocated an individual judge at the earliest opportunity.
The parties will be required to file the following documents 14 days in advance of the First Directions Appointment (the first hearing):
• A jointly obtained valuation of all properties used as a family home
• Three sets of property particulars regarding their housing needs
• Joint information regarding their respective mortgage capacities
• A Questionnaire not longer than four pages
One day in advance of the first hearing the applicant will be required to file a case summary and asset schedule which has been agreed with the other party.
How will the new rules help?
The new rules bring many of the procedural requirements forward to an earlier stage of the case. They also encourage dialogue and collaboration between the parties so that the parties’ minds are focused on settlement.
What do our family lawyers think?
Joanna Toloczko, a partner in our London Family Law team commented “The new rules certainly frontload the preparation work for financial remedy cases, and they should lead to earlier settlements. This is a positive for clients. I have always thought that the aspect of financial remedy cases which my clients find most difficult to deal with is the uncertainty. If the new rules are effectively enforced they will achieve a concluded outcome at a much earlier stage in most cases”.