Following a divorce or separation, there will be many difficult decisions to make; one of those being financial arrangements and the division of any assets. While some couples are able to make these decisions amicably, some couples struggle to agree.
There are a number of ways couples can protect themselves against future complications when they first marry or buy property together, namely cohabitation agreements or pre-nuptial agreements. While not the most romantic proposition both of these are excellent ways to help prevent disputes in the future.
If there are no such documents in place and you are in disagreement with your former partner, we can help you through the journey of applying for a financial order; a legally binding document made by a court which details how financial assets, property or pensions are to be divided.
How do I apply for a financial order?
Before you can apply to court for a financial order, you must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). It is in this meeting you will discuss your situation with a family mediator and ascertain whether there could be a resolution in the future through family mediation.
If this is not an option, an application is then made to the court along with an application fee. The court generally issues the application within a few days of receiving it and each party will then receive a copy of the original form submitted to court, along with a Notice of First Appointment (which will include details of the date and time of the first appointment and the dates for the parties to file at court and exchange documents) and a Notice of Response to First Appointment.
How do I prepare for the first appointment?
The first appointment is normally held 12 to 16 weeks after filing the original paperwork with the court. It is important that you are adequately prepared for your first appointment and that you allow plenty of time to collate the correct information and documentation.
A detailed statement (known as a Form E) relating to your financial circumstances must be submitted no later than 35 days before the first appointment. Further information must be supplied no later than 14 days before the first appointment, including a detailed statement of the issues between you and your former partner, a chronology which sets out the significant dates in the relationship, confirmation of any further information required from your former partner and an estimate of costs.
What happens at the first appointment?
It is usual for both yourself and your former partner to attend the first appointment, unless there are particular circumstances. This appointment is normally conducted by a district judge and will use this time to review your situation, the issues in dispute and how to proceed. In doing so, the judge will decide what, if any, further paperwork and documentation may need to be produced and whether any valuations should take place before moving to the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing.
How do I prepare for the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing
The Financial Dispute Resolution hearing is usually six to eight weeks following the first appointment. No later than seven days before the hearing, you must file at court details of all settlement offers and responses. After the hearing, these documents are returned to you and not retained on the court file.
What happens at the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing?
The purpose of the hearing is so that the Judge can explain to you and your former partner the likely outcome if the case were to proceed to a final hearing. In this way you will have an idea of what decision the Court would be likely to impose upon you if you cannot agree matters. You will be given the opportunity to discuss and negotiate with your former partner to try and come to an agreement and avoid the costs of a final hearing.
There are a number of areas where the judge will give a clear indication about what is likely to happen on major issues such as housing arrangements, whether any property should be sold, whether there should be a pension sharing order and whether a clean break agreement is appropriate.
At the end of the hearing, if you have agreed a financial settlement, the court may make a consent order setting out your agreement.
What happens if an agreement is not made at the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing?
If no agreement is reached, the court then confirms a final hearing date and the dates for filing supporting evidence.
Evidence that is required includes narrative statements on details such as your income, earning capacity and financial needs, as well as a full, up to date financial disclosure. These documents must be filed by you at least 14 days before the final hearing, as well as serving your former partner with your proposals.
During the final hearing, you may be called upon to give evidence and be cross-examined. It is crucial therefore that you are completely honest during the whole process up until this point, and you may feel it necessary to appoint barristers to represent you.
We understand that you will already be feeling vulnerable following your separation, and if you are not able to make an agreement with your former partner or spouse, you may also be feeling confused and unsure where to turn. We are able to guide you through the process of financial orders, helping you collate the wide range of information and documentation you will need, ensuring you are equipped for any hearings or court appearances you may need to make.
We are also able to offer Mediation Information Assessment Meetings to ascertain whether mediation may be an option to resolve your disagreements.
Find out more about our family mediation team and how they can help you here, or contact our team on 023 8071 7431 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.