Please forward this error screen to 66. Are you preparing for a First Appointment or FDR hearing, or mediate do not litigate book pdf you seeking practical advice? Family lawyer Marilyn Stowe gives the lowdown.
The Experts: Has the sentencing U-turn furore buried the bad news on legal aid? When one party refuses to settle, why not try this? When a financial application is made to the divorce courts, three court hearings are scheduled to take place: a First Appointment, an FDR hearing and a Final Hearing. It has proved popular with readers in search of information and practical advice, and for this reason I would like to look at the first and second court hearings in a little more detail. Parties often regard the First Appointment as relatively unimportant, because they don’t have to say anything and much of what happens goes over their heads.
Ignore what is going on at your peril! Before the First Appointment, each party will have exchanged a document known as Form E, which contains financial information. At the First Appointment hearing, discussions will take place with the judge as to what, if any, additional information is required before the case is ready to proceed to the next stage. You also need to confirm that all the valuations that need to be produced and agreed are set in train, ready for the next stage: the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing. At the FDR hearing, negotiations will take place on a Without Prejudice basis and a presiding judge will attempt to bring about a settlement. Before the First Appointment, each party will also have prepared a Chronology: a brief history of what they see as the relevant facts. Sometimes these will be contentious, but don’t worry too much, they are merely to assist the court.
A draft Questionnaire will also be prepared, intended for the other party to answer. This Questionnaire is based upon a Statement of Issues, which is another document filed with the court. In a Statement of Issues document the party explains, as succinctly as possible, what the issues are in the case and what still needs to be answered by means of the Questionnaire, before the FDR hearing can proceed. It may also require further amplification. How can the case proceed without that information? Questionnaires and who help to assess the information subsequently provided. We are solicitors, not accountants, so having this facility on tap is greatly appreciated by our clients and is frequently invaluable.
In straightforward cases, the Questionnaire may be surplus to requirements. In complicated cases, it most certainly is not. However the judge has to decide whether each question is necessary. One trick I have noticed is that at the First Appointment hearing, the lawyer on the other side may sidle up to the opposing lawyer, for a conversation beforehand.