When financial disputes are dealt with by the Court, a key stage of the proceedings is something called the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing (known as the FDR).
The aim of the FDR is to encourage settlement of disputes without the need for a trial. The process is unique in a number of ways:-
- The Judge who deals with the FDR will see all the offers which have been made by the parties including without prejudice offers which are not normally shown to the Court. This gives the Judge a real insight into the negotiating positions of both parties and not just the position which they may have adopted for the purposes of the dispute.
- The hearing is generally less formal that other Court hearings.
- The Judge has no power to make a Financial Order which binds the parties except by agreement. His or her task is to express a view which is non binding and he or she will give a range normally of what the ultimate outcomes will be. The whole object is to try and help people to settle their disputes.
- What is said at the FDR is privileged and private and cannot be referred to again if the case does not reach agreement.
Most cases settle either at the FDR itself or in the days and weeks which follow but since they are part of the traditional Court process they are only available to couples who have already started Court proceedings and many couples prefer to avoid this. Also the Courts are so busy that there is usually a delay sometimes for many months before the FDR appointment can be listed.
To meet these drawbacks in the system some members of CFL now offer what has become known as a private FDR or private hearings and this works on the same basis as an FDR in traditional Court based proceedings. This means that the lawyer will offer an objective view of what sort of outcome would be fair, sometimes called early neutral evaluation, with a view to helping promote settlement or at least reducing the issues between the couple.
The private FDR offers a number of advantages over a Court FDR.
It can take place at any stage either before legal proceedings are issued or during the course of proceedings and it can be heard quickly.
The private FDR is not restricted to merely looking at financial issues. If there are questions concerning children these too can be dealt with and importantly the hearing takes place in a lawyer’s office or other agreed venue rather than in a Court room.
Private FDR’s are an alternative to the collaborative process and the mediation process but like them are designed to promote settlement and minimise confrontation.