Obtaining a Financial Order in Contested Proceedings
In England and Wales, the Court requires both people to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) prior to making an application for a Financial Order. Certain exemptions to attendance apply, for example where there is a history of domestic violence. MIAMs are a method to promote an alternative means to resolve the dispute other than litigation.
Following attendance at a MIAM, and if an agreement still cannot be reached, the first step is to complete a Form A and file this at Court. This triggers the Court to fix a timetable for proceedings. There is currently a Court fee of £255, although an exemption may apply.
The Court will then timetable the first hearing, called a First Appointment, 12-16 weeks after the filing of the Form A. You and the other person will be required to provide full and frank disclosure of your financial situations at least 35 days prior to the First Appointment. This is called a Form E and is filed at Court and served on the other person.
You will also be required to file and serve First Appointment documents which include a questionnaire raising any additional questions you may have, a chronology listing the key dates in the marriage, a concise Statement of Issues and Form G.
At the First Appointment, a Judge will look at the information before them and decide whether further financial disclosure is required in order to progress negotiations. If so, the Judge may make further directions, for example, a valuation of a property or the instruction of an expert.
If you are unable to reach an agreement at the First Appointment, the Judge will list your matter for a further hearing, the Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FHDRA).
Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing
After any additional information has been provided by persons, you are each required to make settlement proposals and file these at Court prior to the FHDRA. During the Hearing, the Judge will provide an indication of what they believe to be a fair and reasonable settlement in the case. Parties will negotiate and, if an agreement is reached, this can be approved by the Judge.
If an agreement cannot be reached, then the Judge may make further directions and list your case for a Final Hearing. At this stage, the Judge cannot impose a settlement on you.
Prior to the Final Hearing, you’ll be required to provide updating disclosure and prepare a section 25 Statement. You should also make open proposals for settlement.
The section 25 statement must address the following issues:
- A short history of your life before the marriage (including education and career)A short history of the other person’s life before the marriage
- Details of any premarital assets
- A short history of the marriage and any period of cohabitation (including home purchases, children and other major marital milestones)
- Any material needed to run a contribution argument (including post-separation accrual)
- A short history of the breakdown of the marriage
- Current circumstances
- Careers, income and earning capacity for both persons
- Income needs
- Housing needs (including property particulars)
- Mortgage capacity
- Other needs
It’s likely that you and the other person will be called as witnesses at the Final Hearing, which means you’ll need to be prepared to give oral evidence to the Judge. It’s at the Final Hearing that a Judge will impose an Order on you.
There are a wide range of powers available to the Judge, which can include a Pension Sharing Order, the sale of a property and maintenance payments.