This series of blogs is about the process of getting a financial remedy through the courts in the context of divorce or dissolution, and we will take a look at each stage in turn.
So, you have not been able to agree how to resolve finances between you, or maybe you have tried mediation and you have not managed to come to total agreement. What next?
You can go to court. This sounds scary, and we appreciate that for most people, they have never before and have never wanted to set foot in a court room. We try to reassure our clients that even though it can be a stressful experience, going to court is not as scary as it sounds. It is usually much more informal than people picture; there are no gowns or wigs, and it can really encourage co-operation of both parties, and give a sense of direction and finality to financial proceedings.
The first stage is to issue an application to court. We are very happy to help advise on and produce an application if you would like to get in touch. Once the application is issued by the court, there will be a First Directions Appointment (“FDA”) scheduled.
The court will expect parties to have made disclosure to each other of relevant factors ahead of the FDA. This usually includes information about finances, future financial needs, and available resources.
Usually, the court asks parties to provide this disclosure in a “Form E”, which is a long document that sets out each party’s financial situation in detail. It is important that both parties are totally honest about their financial position in this form, and both parties are under a continuing obligation to update each other if their circumstances change.
It can take a long time to complete this Form E, particularly because each party must also provide evidence of all the things they refer to in their form, for instance 12 month’s worth of bank statements for each disclosed bank account.
It is best to be proactive in obtaining all the relevant evidence so that there is no unnecessary delay in the later stages of proceedings and so that, where you have a solicitor helping you to prepare the form, you are not incurring costs for reminders to provide certain information.
The court will have set the parties a date for exchanging their Forms E. This is so that one party does not have an unfair disadvantage by having sent their Form E to the other and not yet having received the other’s Form E in return. Parties (or their solicitors) will then go through the other’s Form E and identify areas which need clarification, further evidence or explanation and questions can be asked to the person whose Form E it is for this reason.
Forms E can help concentrate parties’ minds on what is important in the proceedings. For instance, it may help a party realise what assets are actually available to the parties, the preparation of the monthly budget section of the form may help parties identify their future needs in a way they had not considered before, and the cost and effort of producing the form itself may make a previously uncooperative party think more carefully about the merits of reaching settlement.