Family Law Partner Debra Frazer takes a look at private Financial Dispute Resolutions.
A private Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a negotiation hearing in financial disputes before a private judge. It is used where parties want a decision made quickly.
A former senior family law judge described a private FDR as “…a simple concept. The parties pay for a financial remedy specialist to act as a private FDR judge. That person may be a solicitor, barrister or retired judge. No additional qualification is required. The private FDR takes place at a time convenient to the parties, usually in solicitors’ offices, or barristers’ chambers, and a full day is normally set aside to maximise the prospects of settlement. It takes the place of the in-court FDR.”
A recent case bolsters the strength of the private FDR by providing clear guidance that one party cannot unilaterally cancel a private FDR. In that case, a private FDR had been fixed for 3rd March 2021. Following receipt of a report from a financial expert on 12th February 2021 the wife’s solicitors wrote to the husband’s solicitors stating that they did not consider it cost-effective or proportionate to have a private FDR on 3rd March. They therefore suggested cancelling the private FDR scheduled to take place then.
The husband disagreed as the first mutually convenient date for a rescheduled private FDR would be some time in the autumn. He therefore applied to the court for an order that another court hearing in the divorce finances listed to take place on 10th June 2021 should be converted into an in-court FDR.
The judge did not agree with either party’s approach and said: “Private FDRs are to be strongly encouraged. They seem to have a higher success rate than in-court FDRs. This may be a result of more time being available to the judge both for preparation and in the hearing itself…”
He went on to state: “For the future where an agreement is reached that a private FDR will be held then an order should be made which (a) disapplies the in-court FDR process, (b) requires the parties to attend a private FDR on a specified date, and (c) provides that the date may only be altered by an order of the court (which may, of course, be made by consent).”
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