Last week we began looking at the procedure that the court follows on an application for a financial remedies order. Specifically, we looked at the First Directions Appointment, or ‘FDA’.
We now turn to the next stage in the procedure: the Financial Dispute Resolution appointment, or ‘FDR’, at which both parties (and their lawyers, if they are legally represented) must attend.
The basic idea of the FDR is to see if the case (or even just part of it) can be settled by agreement without having to be decided by the court, thereby saving time and costs.
The FDR is before a district judge, but they will not decide the case, or force a party to agree to a settlement – their task is to try to help the parties reach an agreement.
One way the judge may try to encourage settlement is by giving an indication of how the court is likely to decide the case if no agreement is reached. Making the parties aware of which way the case is likely to go should prompt reasonable negotiation.
The parties themselves have an obligation to “use their best endeavours to reach agreement on matters in issue between them.” They will do this by putting forward, and responding to, settlement offers.
Note that any settlement offer made at an FDR cannot subsequently be relied upon by the other party, unless they are re-stated in open correspondence after the FDR.
If a full agreement can be reached at the FDR (and most cases are agreed at or before the FDR) then the district judge will ask the parties to draw up a consent court order, setting out the terms of the agreement, for approval.
If no full agreement can be reached at the FDR then the district judge will give directions as to how the case should continue, for example by fixing a date for a final hearing, at which the court will hear all the evidence, and make a final decision on the case.
It should be noted that if the case does proceed beyond the FDR the district judge who conducted the FDR will take no further part in proceedings. This avoids any suggestion later in the proceedings that he or she has ‘pre-judged’ the case, and enables the parties to make proposals freely at the FDR, knowing that the judge who decides the case will not have heard them.
The FDR is a crucial step in the process of a financial remedies application, at which the outcome of the case can be decided. It is therefore essential that anyone required to attend an FDR first seeks expert legal advice. We can find you an expert that works with you on our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.
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