Family law or Matrimonial law includes divorce, legal separation, matrimonial / cohabitational finance and property, children matters, care proceedings and domestic violence / injunctions. Our family law solicitors are able to advise and represent you within these areas of law.
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If no financial agreement can be reached either by negotiation or mediation there may be no option but to apply to the court for a financial order.
During the court procedure, there is an obligation on each party to:
- save on costs
- act proportionately according to the money involved in the dispute and the importance and complexity of the case
- deal with the matter as quickly and fairly as possible
The focus is on co-operation and to try to settle the matter as efficiently as possible.
We can prepare the court application for you. The Court will then arrange a First Directions Appointment Hearing between 12 – 16 weeks after receiving the application.
In the application you can apply for the following:
- an order for maintenance pending suit/outcome of proceedings (interim maintenance)
- a secured provision order
- a lump sum order
- a property adjustment order
- a periodical payments order (maintenance)
- a pension sharing order
- a pension attachment order
- a pension compensation sharing order
- a pension compensation attachment order
We can advise you which applications are appropriate for you.
Before the First Directions Appointment
Both parties, at the same time, must exchange with each other and send to the court, the financial statement, known as the Form E. The Form E provides full details of your income and property, together with documentary evidence.
This is your financial disclosure and it is vital that the information disclosed is correct and complete. There can be serious consequences later in the proceedings if the information is incomplete or incorrect.
We can assist you to complete the Form E.
Parties will also need to provide information for the Judge to consider at the First Directions Hearing, which includes:
- a concise statement of the issues to be determined by the Judge;
- a chronology;
- an indication if either party will be in a position to use the First Appointment Hearing as a Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) appointment; and
- an estimate of costs spent by the parties to date to allow parties to understand the implications of the costs incurred.
You will also have the opportunity to raise questions and request further documents or information arising from the other party’s Form E by preparing a questionnaire.
This is your opportunity to obtain all the information you need to be able to negotiate a settlement. If there are irregularities in the other party’s Form E, these need to be questioned at this stage. We can help you prepare these documents.
Both parties must attend the First Directions Appointment.
If more information is still required, the Judge will order directions requesting that each party, or experts, provide more information, such as information relating to the valuation of the property or pensions. The court will also set out a timescale for responses to questionnaires to be filed.
A date for a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing will be set if matters cannot be concluded at this stage.
Both parties must attend the Financial Dispute Resolution appointment as it should be utilised for the purpose of discussion and negotiation between the parties. The parties attending the FDR appointment must use their best efforts to reach an agreement on the matters in dispute.
This hearing is without prejudice so it is an opportunity to negotiate a settlement.
If agreement cannot be reached, the Judge will give an indication of what he or she would decide if they were hearing the case and making a final decision. The parties can then consider this indication and try to enter further negotiations and/or agreement using the guidance from the Judge.
If an agreement cannot be reached, then a Final Hearing will be arranged. Further directions could be made to assist a conclusion being decided at the next hearing.
14 days before the final hearing you must both send to the court and the other party an open statement which sets out concise details, including the amounts of money involved, and orders sought (such as a pension sharing order).
A different judge to the one who dealt with the Financial Dispute Resolution appointment will make a decision, after hearing the evidence of the case.
The general rule in family court proceedings is the court will not make an order requiring one party to pay the costs of another party. However, the court may make such an order at any stage of the proceedings where it considers it appropriate to do so because of the conduct of a party in relation to the proceedings.
We will advise you of the issue of costs throughout the proceedings.
Contact us and speak to an experienced member of our Family Law team on 033 33 582 588.
For information about Legal Aid services, visit our Legal Aid page.