Agreeing how to divide the matrimonial assets is very often the most difficult and contentious part of the divorce process. Making a Financial Order Application to the court should be a last resort. The process is intense, protracted and with legal representation it can be very expensive.
The main focus of court proceedings is to establish the value and nature of the matrimonial assets (the Asset base). Once that has been done, parties must then negotiate with a view to reaching an agreement. The Asset base is usually clear at some point between the First Directions Appointment (FDA) and the Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (FDR). It is at the FDR that the Judge will hear evidence as to the assets and each party’s proposals to settle. If the parties have not reached an agreement, the Judge will give a view as to what could happen and the likely cost should the matter proceed to a final hearing. At a final hearing the Judge will order how the assets should be divided.
Instead of waiting for a court date for the FDR and a time slot of 1 hour, the parties can agree to attend a private FDR before a specialist Alternative Dispute Resolution legal expert. They agree which Arbitrator to appoint and a date and time which suits them and their chosen legal representatives. The costs of the FDR are shared, the Arbitrator is available for the whole day and will provide a view in writing. This process allows more time for the Arbitrator to consider all the specific issues of the case and for the parties to negotiate and listen to the view of the Arbitrator. The parties have more time to ask questions and discuss matters with their legal representatives. They are not under the usual time pressures of the one hour allowed for a court FDR. This extra time and specific advice from the Arbitrator usually helps both parties reach an agreement.
So while a private FDR might seem an additional cost, it can help parties get to the finishing line sooner and the settlement will be something they have agreed. They will save the cost of preparing for and being represented at a final hearing while avoiding the stress of waiting for a hearing date, having to give evidence and having a decision made by a Judge rather than agreeing matters themselves.