(Applications for financial provision on divorce or dissolution).
If, in the course of divorce or dissolution proceedings, a couple is unable to resolve financial issues between themselves (such as whether maintenance is required from one partner to the other and if so the amount, frequency and term of payment or whether the family home and any other property or assets should be split between the parties equally or in some other way), an application to the Court may be made.
Prior to the issue of any application to the Court in this regard, clients should be advised by their Solicitors wherever possible to attempt to resolve matters out of Court and to perhaps agree to the voluntary exchange of financial information to aid early negotiation. The clients will be required to complete a lengthy financial statement (known as a Form E) giving full details of all assets that they own and all income received.
When an application to the Court has been made a date will be given for a first directions hearing (a First Appointment) which will usually be the first opportunity that a Judge will have to see the parties and give directions for the further disclosure of documentation or provision of further information required to enable the parties to negotiate and to assist the Court if obviously required to adjudicate.
If matters are not resolved at the First Appointment, a further directions hearing is scheduled at some point in the future (usually ultimately no earlier than 8 weeks from the date of the first appointment). This further directions hearing is called a Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment and usually the Judge at those hearings will be able to give an indication of how the trial Judge might look at the issues in the case with the aim of encouraging the parties together with their legal advisors at Court to reach agreement if possible.
If agreement cannot be reached then the matter is scheduled for a final hearing when a Judge (not the one who dealt with the FDRA) will decide what provision if any should be made by one party to the other having regard to all of the relevant circumstances which, for spouses, are set out in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and, for civil partners, in the Civil Partnership Act 2004, Schedule 5 at Part 5, para 21 (2) and which can be summarised as follows:
- The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
- Their respective financial needs, obligations and responsibilities now and in the future.
- Standard of living.
- Age and duration of marriage/civil partnership (and of any prior cohabitation).
- Any physical or mental disability.
- Contributions made or likely to be made to the welfare of the family.
- Relevant conduct.
- Potential loss of benefit.