Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) Hearing Guide: What to Expect

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 28th November 2023

Are you navigating a divorce and wondering what might happen if you get to a Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) Hearing and how it might impact you now and in the future?

financial-dispute-resolution-fdr-hearing-guide-what-to-expect

Dive into our guide for an informative roadmap, helping you understand and prepare for the process ahead.

We cover:

  • What to expect at a financial dispute resolution hearing

  • How long to set aside for the hearing

  • How to prepare for your hearing

  • How much a hearing will cost you

  • The next steps if a resolution is not reached

What is financial dispute resolution? 

An FDR is a private court hearing between you, your spouse and your legal teams with the intention of settling a financial dispute.

A FDR hearing helps divorcing spouses or civil partners agree on how their assets and finances should be divided with the help of a judge. If you are getting a divorce and you can’t agree with your spouse how to divide your finances, you may need to take the matter to court. If so, you will need a solicitor to represent you.

What happens at a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing?

The hearing will be heard by a judge, but they won’t make the final judgement. This way everyone can join in a neutral setting with the oversight of a judge to keep affairs polite and ensure that both sides work together to negotiate a settlement in good faith. 

The way a hearing works is the judge will listen to the arguments of both parties and try to facilitate a couple to make a mutual decision. They will outline the decision they would make if they had to on the day, however their analysis is not binding, but it can prove helpful in persuading both sides to reach an agreement.

Before you get to the hearing you will meet with your solicitor for a final briefing, a reminder of what to expect and a clarification of any potential outcomes.

You won’t have to give evidence, instead your pre-designed case will be presented to the judge.

The judge can raise any questions they may have with your legal team. 

The judge will follow the following process:

  1. Provide an overview of the process and principles of a FDR hearing

  2. Identify matters which will impact the outcome of the trial and list those which shouldn’t influence proceedings

  3. Outline any differences between the asset and income statements provided by both sides

  4. Clarify the key elements of the dispute based on their most recent financial offers

  5. Outline possible outcomes for resolving the remaining issues the parties are bringing to the court

  6. Offer an opinion on the feasibility of litigation based on the issues and financial sums involved in the dispute

How long does an FDR hearing take?

The hearing should take a day to conclude. So, make sure you have set aside the time needed.

You may need to book the day off work or arrange childcare if you currently have custody and are the primary caregiver for you and your spouses’ children.

In terms of scheduling a case, they can be booked relatively quickly on a day of your choosing, dependant on the judge’s availability. 

How many cases settle at FDR?

The majority of cases, around ¾ settle at the FDR stage. Remember, that if you cannot agree at your hearing, you may have terms imposed on you that don’t fit your needs.

Remember, every case is different so be prepared and consult your solicitor about what might happen if the case isn't settled at FDR.

How to prepare for an FDR hearing? 

The day can be long and stressful, so make sure you’re well prepared. You’ll want to be well rested and know that you have your meals sorted for the day - you might even want to keep your energy up with some healthy snacks to ensure you stay on top of your game for the hearing.

The hearing will start in the morning, and it can end up going into the late afternoon, so don’t schedule any appointments for the afternoon

Remember that the day is going to go some way to impacting your financial future, so you’ll want to be ready for any direction the discussion can go in.

Before the hearing you will have provided evidence of all your financial liabilities and assets. You will also have completed a Financial Statement (Form E). In this document you will include any relevant considerations for the court.

These can include:

  • Your future financial requirements 

  • Your child’s needs

As well as having completed your own Form E, you will have been given the opportunity to review your spouses. 

The most important thing with Form E is to be transparent and honest, giving a full disclosure of your assets and liabilities. Hiding money during a divorce is unethical and goes against the principle of your duty of full and frank disclosure.

After reviewing your spouses’ form, you need to be confident that they’ve accurately stated their financial position. You need to raise any questions about their disclosure with your solicitor before the hearing

After both parties are happy with both financial statements, you may put forward, or have received, an offer of settlement. If any offer is rejected, let the judge know prior to the hearing so they can shape their advice.

Before the hearing, it’s worth talking with your solicitor to discuss areas where you could make further compromises. Doing so will mean you’re more prepared if the other side requests them or the judge asks you to consider negotiating your position.

How much does an FDR hearing cost? 

An FDR hearing doesn’t come cheaply: it can cost from £500 to £1500 for just one hearing, and you may need more than one date. However, this cost includes the fees for your legal representative and any fees accrued during the process.

Bear in mind that the cost will vary depending on the circumstances of your dispute. 

Costs can be influenced by:

  • The complexity of your hearing

  • The location of the hearing

  • How senior the judge overseeing your hearing is

Do you have to make an offer before a FDR hearing?

No, you don’t have to make an offer before a hearing. But, as mentioned, if you or your spouse has made a settlement offer you will need to let the judge know, as this will influence their assessment of your hearing.

You might not want to make an offer because you may not have all the information you need yet and things can move quickly and in unpredictable directions at a court hearing.

If you do wish to make a settlement offer, it must be 7 days before the court hearing. Still having made an offer, you should be ready to negotiate on the day and move from that offer if a better mutual settlement can be reached for all sides.

What happens if no agreement has been reached at an FDR hearing? 

If no agreement is reached at an FDR, you can book another hearing. This is known as a final hearing and will be held with a different judge. 

At the final hearing you will have to give evidence, unlike at your initial hearing. You will not be able to tell the judge what was discussed at the first hearing. If you can settle at your first hearing you should aim to do so, as this will save you from the additional expense of a second hearing and save you from stress, giving you a chance to move forward with your new life more quickly.

If you need more than one hearing date, you can make offers between hearing appearances. If accepted, this would mean the dispute has been resolved and there’s no need to attend another hearing.

We can help settle financial disputes

Reaching a fair financial settlement can be one of the hardest parts of a divorce, depending on the circumstances and relationships between each parties.

If you need help with financial dispute resolution or need legal advice about divorce, our solicitors are on hand to help. Get a free case assessment now for more information.

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