Concept for spousal maintenance - can it be ended permanently

You may be considering applying for the division of finances through your divorce. But what happens? Amy Ralston, explains further.

When an applicant issues financial proceedings, both parties will receive a timetable from the court. Within this timetable is the date of the first directions appointment, the exchange of Form E and other FDA documents. It is crucial to take legal advice if you, your spouse or civil partner has issued financial proceedings as these deadlines are ordered by the court and must be met. It is particularly critical to seek legal advice when completing Form E – this document contains your entire financial position from bank balances to pensions and it needs to be a full and accurate account of your finances – it also gives you the opportunity to set out your needs and your contributions to the marriage. Form Es are exchanged simultaneously ahead of the first directions appointment, so the other party cannot adjust what is in their Form in light of the other’s form.


The FDA is the first hearing in financial proceedings. This is usually only a 20 minute appointment and is generally used as a “house-keeping” hearing, where the court sets a timetable and directions for resolving the evidential issues between the parties. This can sometimes include a direction for the instruction of a single joint expert; an expert could be instructed to value any of the marital assets, such as a business, cars, jewellery, artwork or property.


The next stage is the FDR hearing. You and your spouse or civil partner should have all of the financial information you need to reach a financial settlement at this stage. It is at this hearing where the majority of cases settle. It is a without prejudice hearing so parties can make offers and withdraw them again if matters don’t settle. Parties will usually arrive an hour ahead of the FDR appointment to meet with their barrister – the parties barristers will often discuss matters during this time to gauge whether a financial settlement is likely. During the actual hearing, the Judge will give their indication as to the financial settlement they would order if the matter was at the final hearing stage – this can be very helpful if your spouse or civil partner has not engaged in negotiations or made any offers thus far.


If matters remain unresolved following the FDR, the final stage of the financial proceedings is the final hearing and it can take 12 months or more to reach this stage. It is important to note that the Judge who heard the FDR is not permitted to hear the final hearing. At the final hearing, a Judge will make a final and binding decision on the resolution of the finances and an order will be drawn up to that effect.


Importantly, a financial settlement can be reached between you and your spouse or civil partner at any time once the financial proceedings have been issued (and the divorce is at the correct stage); which is why it is important to take legal advice as reaching a settlement between yourselves can be significantly more cost effective than going through the court system. Any agreement should be clearly recorded in correspondence between solicitors and confirmed in a consent order, otherwise it will not be legally binding.


You should always seek legal advice when considering the division of finances in a divorce.


Amy is a trainee solicitor in our family team based in Exeter. If you are considering a divorce or separation get in contact with our team on 01392 210700 or email us at