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If you can’t reach a financial agreement with your husband, wife or civil partner you can apply to arbitration or to the Court. You both have to agree to arbitrate and if one of you will not agree then the last resort is to apply to the Court to adjudicate. The first thing an applicant must do is attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting). The MIAM is compulsory unless you are exempt. The exemptions are set out on the Application form which is called Form A. Form A has to be signed by a mediator if one of the exemptions does not apply and the court will reject the application if the Form A is not signed by a mediator.
If the case goes to a final hearing the interval between sending your Form A to the Court and the final hearing may be ten to twelve months, or longer if your case is complex and there are delays. The procedure is governed by Court Rules, which provide for stages and these cannot be shortened. Cases also have to wait their turn to get into the Court list. Arbitration ought to be quicker as you have more control over the timetable.
Under the Court Rules there are various stages where the control of the procedure is in the hands of the Court.
Each stage can be avoided if prior agreement or settlement of claims is reached and it is important to carry on negotiating after a court application has been started.
This is the first hearing and both parties have to attend with their legal advisors. If one, or both, of you is unrepresented then that person must still attend.
A great deal of information must be shared between you and sent to the Court before the hearing:
A concise statement of the issues which you dispute.
A questionnaire asking for further information and documents which you consider are relevant to the issues in dispute between you.
At the hearing the Judge will give directions for how your case should progress, which could for example give a deadline for when the questionnaires should be answered, whether any valuations or other evidence are needed. The Judge will also look at whether all of the questions in the questionnaire are necessary if they have not already been answered. Then directions will be made in a Court Order and will usually include a date for a Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing, often three to four months later.
Again, this hearing has to be attended by both of you and your legal advisors. This is a hearing where the Judge will try to help you reach agreement without having to go to a final hearing. You both arrive about an hour before to negotiate. The purpose of the hearing, which may last an hour or more, is to see if it is possible to come to an overall financial settlement. If successful then the Judge can make an Order, which will mean that your case has been concluded when the Order has been implemented. It is a privileged hearing – this means that you are both free to discuss options openly with the Judge but those discussions cannot be relied on later if the case goes on to trial. The Judge that conducts the FDR will have no further involvement with the case and cannot conduct a final hearing of that case.
Only if the FDR is unsuccessful will the Judge give further directions (make further Orders about the way the case will go forward) and will fix a date for a final hearing, probably at least two months ahead.
This is the trial of your case. The judge will have all necessary evidence and you and your spouse must both attend with your legal advisors. The applicant will give evidence first followed by the other person and both parties will be questioned by the legal representatives and the Judge will also probably ask questions. At the end of the trial the Judge will give judgment and a final Order will be made which ends your case when it has been implemented.
For issues relating to financial arrangements including advice and guidance with MIAM, FDRs and hearings contact our specialist family solicitors David and Sarah now.
Remember Sarah will meet you out of office hours anywhere in the Wimborne, Poole, Bournemouth or East Dorset Areas.
Jordan Williams Law are specialists in their field. They practice family law in the Wimborne, Poole, Bournemouth and surounding areas. Contact them now.