One of the tools that we have increasingly been using since the start of the pandemic, particularly for busy clients is the private FDR (financial dispute resolution hearing).
Getting divorced, particularly during the pandemic, is rarely easy. The time and effort that the paperwork, negotiations and hearings can take, can make everything overwhelming. However, there are tools and approaches which can make the whole process of resolving finances on divorce much more manageable. One of which is the private FDR.
The Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing
This is usually the second court hearing when proceedings to try to resolve financial matters if direct or voluntary negations have been unsuccessful. This hearing is where the court attempts to assist the parties in reaching a settlement and are often successfully.
The disadvantage of a court based FDR is that the court is often completely over-run with cases. It is not unusual have a considerable delay in obtaining a court date and to find that there are numerous other matters in the same list as a complex FDR.
Clients have invested many thousands of pounds in the hope that the Judge will be able to help them resolve the case. They are often disappointed to find that the judge hasn’t had the time to read the papers, or has only had time to consider them briefly.
The Judge will only be available, if held remotely, for the time allocated to the case (which may be only a short period of time). It also may be that the parties would have appreciated further judicial input later in the day as the issues are narrowed – this is unlikely to be able to be facilitated in a Court led FDR. The appointment sadly can turn out to be a waste of time and then there is little option but to proceed with a very expensive hearing on a final basis.
There is another alternative for those that can afford it (and indeed given the problems outlined below it is arguable that it is a good investment in many more modest cases) and particularly useful for busy people.
The Private FDR
The concept of a private FDR is simple. The parties pay for a financial specialist (often a recently retired judge) to act as a private FDR judge.
They can choose jointly the judge (for example, business owners may choose one who is familiar with business structures), the date of the FDR and the location (or to be held remotely). It takes place away from court promoting a more relaxed atmosphere for negotiations. A full day is usually set aside to maximise the prospects of settlement and the judge is available all day.
This is fundamentally different to the court system where the judge is under massive time pressures and the date may be inconvenient to all. Further, the private FDR can be held before the need for any Court proceedings, and used in direct voluntary negotiations which may save even more time and costs if successful.
How does it work?
The client’s lawyers present the arguments to the judge as if they were in court and the judge suggests the likely settlement or range of settlement.
The clients and their lawyers then negotiate further during the day, to see if agreement can be reached. If it is, the agreement can be drawn up then and there, signed by all and subsequently approved by the court without anyone needing to attend court at all.
For more information on how to make the most of a private FDR, please see this article.
What are the benefits?
There can be a huge saving in cost and time despite paying for the judge, as settlement opportunities are maximised. If, unusually, the private FDR is unsuccessful then the parties can proceed with the Court based system as usual, at almost certainly a quicker pace than would have been the case if the matter had gone all the way through the court system.
So, in short there are many advantages to a private FDR. As a firm we have been involved in a number of highly successful FDRs and would recommend their increasing use.