What is a financial order in divorce?
A Financial Order is a term used to describe the ‘court process’ financial proceedings within a divorce.
Where parties agree on the division of assets the court will consider the terms of a consent order. This order will need to be approved by a judge. But, please remember, the Judge does not have to agree with it merely because you have both agreed.
A Financial Order can be applied for if you wish the court to decide how you divide your assets. The application for a financial order following the presentation of a petition for divorce is called ancillary relief. This is because it is in addition to the divorce and requires a separate set of proceedings. The term arose because the financial application was ‘ancillary’ to the petition.
By having a consent order drawn up, you can avoid having to apply for ancillary relief. This will then dismiss all future financial claims between the two of you.
A pre-action protocol sets out guidelines on how the parties should behave towards each other before proceedings are issued. These steps are intended to be easy to follow and to ensure that everyone involved is aware of the assets in dispute with document disclosure and presentation of evidence.
You may have to pay a court fee to make an application for a financial order. The court fee is £255 if you and your husband, wife or civil partner have not agreed to the arrangements before you make the application. (A consent order will cost £50).
Once you have made your ‘Form A’ application for a financial order, you will be given an appointment with a judge. This is known as the ‘First Appointment’. This appointment will be between 16 and 24 weeks from when you first made your application.
Both parties have to attend the First Appointment in person, where you will meet with a judge who will tell you how the case can be settled. On infrequent occasions a barrister can attend without the party they are representing providing you apply to the court in advance, and you are contactable by telephone on the day of the hearing.
You will need to provide a complete financial statement using a Form E which will need to be submitted to court 35 days prior to your first appointment. A Form E financial disclosure will involve:
- information about your family, including health and your standard of living before your relationship, broke down
- arrangements proposed for your children, including where they will live and if any maintenance payments have been agreed
- details of all property owned, including the family home if you have one
- bank and building society accounts and their balances
- shares, life insurance or savings bonds you own
- personal belongings worth more than £500
- anything else that either of you may be able to convert into cash (like investment trusts)
- information about any businesses you may own or have a share in
- value and details about any pensions
- your income (including any benefits you may get)
- an estimate of what you think you will need to live on
- other information about your husband, wife or civil partner or their behaviour that you think the court should know
At this stage, if both parties can agree on a settlement. It can be presented to the Judge, and if the judge agrees, they can issue a ‘Final Order’. If there is no agreement, you will have to attend a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing.
Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing
This is an informal meeting at court, but both parties must attend unless the court order states otherwise. The judge will again try to help you reach a financial agreement.
If you are still unable to reach an agreement, the judge will decide a date for a final hearing. Depending on the values of your assets the hearings are usually set for 2 or three days and approximately 4-6 months in the future.
At the final hearing, a different judge from the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing will preside over the hearing.
If at this stage, you still can’t reach an agreement, the judge will make a decision based on all the evidence. This decision will be shown on a ‘Final Order’ giving details of any arrangements that have to be made as part of the order. Both parties have to obey this decision.
Throughout each court appearance, Divorce Negotiator can assist you as a McKenzie friend. This will be considerably cheaper than using a solicitor and a barrister. A McKenzie friend is not a solicitor or barrister but a person who can assist you through the legal process.
Going to court can be a daunting process, so having an expert at your side will ease any nerves you have. Having somebody to lead negotiations on your behalf will ensure you receive a fair deal.