The FDR hearing, known more formerly as the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing, is generally the second court hearing that parties will attend as part of the financial remedy proceedings. The aim of the FDR is for the parties to reach an agreed financial settlement.
The FDR is conducted by a district judge or a deputy, who may have been involved in proceedings previously. It is important to note that is a settlement is not reached at the FDR hearing, the judge with conduct will have no further involvement with the case moving forward. The district judge will try to encourage the parties towards settlement by exploring common ground between the parties and considering submissions on the points of dispute, in order to provide guidance.
The district judge will be aware of all offers that have been made between the parties and discussions between the parties and court will automatically be privileged, meaning that they cannot be referred to the court at any later point. This process is designed to afford the parties at the FDR with an open forum to discuss their views on settlement and why they believe they have offered a fair and reasonable settlement in all the circumstances. Usually after the judge has given an indication on the direction he sees settlement going, the parties and legal teams are invited to go out of court to negotiate.
As part of the FDR process, the judge will not impose a settlement on the parties, but can indicate what he would expect the court to order at a subsequent final hearing. If the judge thinks the parties are close to settlement, he can adjourn the FDR to a future date or require the parties to attend mediation, although such a course of action is rare. If a negotiated settlement cannot be agreed between the parties and ratified by the court with a consent order, the matter will most likely be listed for a final hearing, in addition to any further requests from the court for disclosure, expert reports, witness statements etc, if the judge feels they would assist the court in determining settlement for the parties at that final hearing.
When it comes to achieving a successful outcome from the FDR, it comes down to three simple things – preparation, preparation, preparation…
You and your legal team should always be considering the factors which the district judge will be bearing in mind, when assessing the financial settlement.
In addition, it is always prudent to ensure that your settlement proposals and variations on those proposals, are considered before the FDR begins. It is always challenging to undertake financial negotiations whilst heady with emotion and stress, which is almost inevitable in the circumstances.
It is also useful to bear in mind what you want to take from the hearing and consider which areas of an overall settlement you may or may not be prepared to negotiate on. For some clients, this may be retaining the matrimonial home over the receipt of spousal maintenance, for others it will be protecting their business interests or pension as a source of future income in lieu of other capital assets.
If you want to discuss your matrimonial finances or upcoming FDR hearing with one of our expert solicitors, contact us today on 01234 889777 and take advantage of our free consultation service. Serving Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters.