It will be of no surprise that resolving financial disputes when navigating through a divorce can be stressful and long winded. It is also difficult to manage expectations and keep things proportionate in terms of legal costs, especially when one party does not appear to be amicable and fair. However, it is worth remembering that the overriding objective of the financial remedy courts is “to improve the delivery of financial remedies for families involved in court proceedings relating to issues arising from the dissolution of relationships.” It is also the case that the courts will expect both parties to be amicable, keep costs down, and transparent throughout, to ensure a fair outcome.
There is a process which must be followed as soon as proceedings have commenced to settle the financial aspect of a divorce. As stated above, at all times both parties must ensure they remain amicable and honest to ensure a fair and equitable outcome on both sides. Over the years the timescales have caused added pressure on the parties to keep focused and reasonable. There are some instances where family proceedings have been known to take several years to conclude, and costs hundreds of thousands to reach a conclusion. Therefore, the courts have considered the best way to thin down the process as best as it can to limit the above example happening more regularly. It has also assisted in avoiding the courts being overstretched on cases throughout the year.
There is one aspect of the process which is considered compliant with the provisions of the Family Procedure Rules and relatively new in the circumstances, and that is the accelerated first appointment procedure in financial remedy proceedings. This accelerated procedure is a method to first avoid personal attendance at court at the first appointment hearing for all parties (this includes remote attendance) but also to keep costs down when both parties agree on specific aspects of the marital pot. It is important to note that the first appointment is to give an initial assessment of the matter and allow for the parties to air any initial concerns and allow the court to give directions for the parties to follow. In the accelerated procedure, these directions must be agreed in advance and implemented into a draft order for the judge’s consideration. Several other documents must also be agreed and others which must also have been answered by the parties such as a questionnaire.
This process is also productive because it allows the parties to have breathing space to enter settlement negotiations in the hope that there are no further hearings required. This saves undue stress, time and above all costly legal bills which could be better served as a future pot for the children or as a retirement fund for parties as they continue individually on their journey through life.
Proceedings can be complex and other matters are not so easy to agree this procedure. This means that sadly the parties will require court intervention to assist in splitting the marital pot on behalf of the parties.
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