If it is not possible to resolve financial matters through Alternative Dispute Resolution, it may be necessary to commence financial proceedings. Issuing proceedings does not prevent you from reaching settlement by agreement at any point and the court process is designed to try and help parties to negotiate.
Before an application to court can be made, you will need to attend a mediation appointment to assess whether mediation is suitable for your matter, known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. If mediation is not suitable, you will be provided with a form confirming this. There are some exceptional circumstances which negate the need for a mediation referral.
You need to complete an application in Form A to start financial claims which is filed at court, together with the court fee. The court will then set the date for the first hearing and provide a timetable which must be complied with to prepare for the hearing, including completing and exchanging a Form E providing a detailed summary of your financial information.
The first hearing, known as the First Directions Appointment (FDA), the court will order directions to help prepare your matter for the next hearing, such as ordering that valuations are obtained or expert reports are prepared. The judge will direct if any further information is required and highlight those questions, set out in questionnaires, that the parties must be reply to.
Sometimes it is possible to proceed without an FDA hearing straight to the second hearing, which is called a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing (FDR). The purpose of this hearing is to assist the parties reach a financial settlement. The judge can provide an indication of how they would resolve matters at a FDR.
If it is not possible to reach agreement at the FDR, your matter will proceed to a Final Hearing, where a judge will make a binding decision in relation to the division of assets. Relatively few cases end up at this stage.
See our financial court process flowchart which sets out the different stages of the financial proceedings.