Updated: Mar 25, 2022
As from 11 January 2022 there are new changes to the procedure and and two new forms to contend with in the Divorce Financial Court. If you would like to read what it's all about check out the Efficiency Statement,
What impact will this have on you? As brief as I can up to the FDR for now:
Cooperation and Working together
The parties are asked to work together to complete certain court documents (see below). The court has made it clear that separate versions of such documents will no longer be tolerated. So no more separate Schedules of Assets, Chronologies or Case Summaries.
Many more documents will need to be be obtained and sent to the court and the other party prior to the First Directions Appointment. Examples include: property particulars and mortgage capacity evidence to be exchanged prior to the first appointment.
This is relevant if you or your (ex) partner in the proceedings are legally represented. The Efficiency Statement introduces potential costs consequences for failure to comply with the requirements.
Please find a handy flowchart that can be downloaded to show the integration of some of the new changes within the court procedure
The most substantial changes and the new documents introduced are considered below:
Relevant when high net value and complexity will allocate to the High Court.
Continuity of judge
More judicial continuity, the allocated judge will either conduct:
all hearings up to and including the final hearing, excluding the FDR; or
will conduct all hearings up to and including FDR with any subsequent hearings to be heard by another judge.
Parties can agree to directions ahead of the First Appointment. See Flowchart that shows the new steps:
14 days prior to the First Appointment the following steps:
The applicant shall file a jointly obtained valuation of the family home (alternatively each party provides their own separate market appraisal and will need to explain why a joint valuation could not be obtained);
Each party to use their best endeavours to
(i) set out their positions in relation to the housing needs of themselves and the other party.
(ii) provide brief evidence of their respective borrowing capacities;
(iii) Provide a questionnaire pursuant to FPR 9.14(5)(c) that should not exceed four pages unless permission is granted for a longer questionnaire.
The day before the First Appointment, the applicant must file with the court the following documents: -
A composite case summary (Template ES1): to provide the judge with an overview of the case, including a brief chronology, details of any open offers, legal costs (incurred and projected) and likely issues;
A composite schedule of assets and income (Template ES2): to record the assets, liabilities and income values in a simple and neutral format to highlight any differences in valuations whilst limiting disagreements as to how the figures should be presented.
I have collated all the templates and more for the First Directions Hearing with worked examples and , explanatory notes. You can download it here.
Position statements should be filed by 11am the working day before the hearing and should be exchanged with the other party no later than one hour after they were filed.
The Efficiency Statement provides further guidance in respect of position statements including prescribed page limits, depending upon the type of hearing, and the layout of the document.
Duty to Negotiate
Parties to inform the court that they have complied with the duty to negotiate openly and reasonably. Position statements must contain brief details of what efforts the parties have made to negotiate openly, reasonably and responsibly. Failure to comply with the duty may be met by costs penalties. The bundle for each hearing must contain the parties’ costs estimates in Form H.
Where to go from here
It is so important to prepare fully for a hearing. Check out my templates which brings it all together which will save you time. Alternatively, you may wish to book an online zoom session for help and support.