WHAT IS AN FDR?
When one side applies for a financial order in divorce proceedings the application initiates a clearly defined timetable. The FDR is the second hearing in the process. With the emphasis on negotiation, the FDR is designed to focus minds on outstanding financial matters. Often it provides an indispensable stepping-stone towards a binding agreement that does away with the need for a further, final hearing where a judge decides the outcome of the financial claim.
It is important that you think carefully about the settlement you want to reach before you attend the FDR, and you discuss this with your solicitor or barrister. Think about what sort of outcome you could live with in the years ahead and what sort of result you would find unacceptable.
WHAT HAPPENS AT COURT?
The FDR is all about moving any financial disputes forward in the search for agreement.
The FDR appointment is usually scheduled for an hour. But you should have plenty of time to discuss any concerns with your legal advisor before and after the hearing. If both parties have instructed lawyers they will usually try to find a negotiated agreement based on their clients’ instructions before going before the judge.
CAN THE JUDGE MAKE A FINAL DECISION AT THE FDR?
No. The FDR is a preliminary hearing held before the final financial hearing. However, the judge will have access to all the financial evidence and so will be in a position to predict what the final outcome could be. He or she will give a clear indication of what a final order might look like and impress upon the parties the advantages of reaching a negotiated settlement. Parties are also usually reminded of the unpredictability of final hearings where a judge decides the case alone.
WHAT HAPPENS IF AN AGREEMENT IS REACHED?
If you are happy with the proposals, your solicitor or barrister (if you have instructed one) together with your husband or wife’s advisor will prepare a draft consent order for the judge. It is often possible to have this finalised and approved by the judge at the FDR.
IF THERE IS NO AGREEMENT IS A FINAL HEARING UNAVOIDABLE?
If you can’t reach an agreement at the FDR the judge will set a date for a final hearing – usually within a few months. So that parties are not prejudiced by their conduct at the FDR, a different judge will always be allocated to the case for the final hearing.
Failure to reach agreement at the FDR does not mean attempts to finalise matters should end. Negotiations will usually continue. If anything there should be a renewed impetus to agree matters after taking into account the FDR judge’s views. His or her opinions on the probable outcome at a final hearing should carry real weight between the parties and encourage settlement.
WHAT IF I THINK MY SPOUSE HAS NOT MADE FULL DISCLOSURE OF FINANCIAL ASSETS?
If you believe there has not been full and frank disclosure you can raise this at the FDR. It is open to the judge to make directions in relation to further disclosure before a final hearing if he or she thinks it is appropriate.