Here we set out some information on the new Divorce Law (April 2022) and if needed, the Financials after Divorce (FDRH) process – and I set out indicative legal fees for me to act in such cases.
1. The new law from April 2022 means that instead of having to attribute blame to one party (such as alleging adultery and that being contested and so then running up £000’s in legal fees to apply in court to obtain a divorce – which may even be rejected and so divorce is not granted – SEE LINK), a couple can now mutually cite the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of their relationship as grounds for wanting to obtain a divorce. This is known now as Non Fault Divorce.
2. A couple can file for a Non Fault Divorce once they have been married for at least 12 months, regardless of whether or not both parties agree. Either one or both parties can apply.
3. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2022 has also introduced a new minimum timeframe of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and when individuals can apply for a conditional order of divorce.
4. This gives couples time to reflect, and potentially make amends, or where reconciliation isn’t possible, time to agree important future arrangements regarding children, finance and property. This means that in total, a no fault divorce should take approximately six months to complete.
5. The court fee to issue a divorce application is currently £593 in England and Wales. You can get that fee waived if you are on benefits or on a low income – SEE FORM EX 160.
If you have to pay the fee then normally you would try to agree that you and your spouse pay that fee 50/50. The divorce application has to be done online and I set out indicative charges for my services at the bottom of this page.
6. Regarding the financial element of the divorce (FDR) you can agree that between yourselves but I always advise that a consent order is done to give you both a legal clean break. Think of it this way you may get divorced but do not agree a clean break through a consent order and then one of you wins the lottery a few weeks later. Without a clean break consent order, your ex can have a claim to 50% your winnings. If you have been split up from him/her for several years and are with a new partner do you think they will be happy about that.
7. If you can both agree to settle the financial element of the divorce and no disclosure is needed I can then draft a consent order to settle matters and I set out indicative charges at the bottom of this page.
8. If you cannot agree a consent order the matter will have to be taken to court and you will make an application online, you’ll get a reference number that can be used when you apply for a divorce,
THE FDR PROCESS
You will usually have a 1st hearing which is short hearing to move matters onto a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (“FDRH”) . The 1st hearing can be used as an FDRH if all disclosure has been done at that early stage.
An FDRH hearing can last up to a full day in court as the Judge will encourage the parties to try and reach a settlement and so will allow time for that to happen. You will not give any oral evidence at an FDR.
If you cannot settle your dispute at the FDRH the Judge will then list the matter for an evidential hearing where the case will be listed for at least 1 day (may be more than 1 day if lots in dispute). At that hearing you and your ex (+ any witnesses) will give evidence on the matters and will be cross-examined. At that stage the Judge will decide the outcome of the case NOT the Husband or Wife. NOTE THAT the Judge at FDRH is disqualified from sitting on the final hearing.
An FDRH is usually the second court hearing in proceedings for a financial solution in a divorce. It provides both parties an opportunity to negotiate a final financial settlement with assistance from their lawyers and a family judge.
How do I prepare for an FDRH?
Prior to the hearing you must:
- Provide proof of all financial assets and liabilities
- Complete a Form E Statement (includes things such as future financial needs and children)
- Review your ex’s financial information and Form E Statement
- Raise questions over any missing information you identify in the disclosure
- Answer questions you get about any missing information in your disclosure
- Take time to consider areas where you could be flexible in order to reach a final settlement
Once all financial information has been discussed with your lawyer, you may put forward or receive a proposal to settle. If these are rejected by either party the court must know that this has occurred so that the judge can tailor his/her guidance.
It’s important also to have a rough idea of where you may find the funds to buy out your former spouse’s interest in a shared asset, e.g. the family home.
Being open-minded, flexible, and having creative solutions will only benefit you in the long term.
At the FDRH the judge may ask any questions and the lawyers will answer and can highlight to the judge if they think one party is being obviously unreasonable in order to encourage a rational conclusion.
At this point, the judge will provide an indication of what decision they would reach if the decision was being made there and then. This is simply an indication and not the final decision from the judge.
Such indication and words from the judge can often encourage the parties to reach an agreement after further discussions outside of the courtroom. If agreement can be reached, the lawyers will draft a consent order for each party to sign and then this is approved by the judge to legalise the financial settlement.
What if no agreement is reached at the FDRH?
If an agreement can’t be made at this stage, then your case will be listed for a final hearing and will take place in front of a different judge. The discussions from the FDRH will not be disclosed to the new judge.
There is normally several months between an FDRH and the final hearing.
You will have to give evidence at the final hearing and this time a final decision will be made by the judge.
It’s recommended that you and your former spouse try to reach an agreement at FDRH or in any case before the final hearing as it will save you both time and money.