The Financial Dispute Resolution hearing (or FDR) is an important type of court hearing of relatively recent creation. The FDR was at first only used in disputes about the financial consequences of divorce but is now used in other areas of family financial dispute such as maintenance for children. The basis of the FDR is early neutral evaluation: that is to say, the Judge expresses a view about the likely outcome of the dispute in order to assist the parties towards settlement, but does not have the power to make an order if they cannot agree. FDR hearings are more informal than normal court hearings.
FDRs have a high success rate – many cases settle at the hearing or shortly afterwards on the basis of the indication the court has given. However, they have their limitations:
- Because court lists are congested, there is usually a considerable delay before the FDR takes place.
- As with other court hearings, the parties have no power to choose who the Judge will be. Experience shows that, through no fault of their own, the Judges assigned to deal with FDRs have not always had the chance to read the papers and prepare fully for the hearing.
- The FDR can only take place at a specified time in the progress of a case.
- Family disputes are often about more than one area: for instance, children and money. An FDR will normally only be able to deal with one area.
A number of senior members of 29 Bedford Row, all experienced part-time Judges or Arbitrators (or both), now offer private early neutral evaluation, sometimes known as a private FDR. As in a court FDR, the evaluator encourages the parties towards settlement and (unlike mediation) expresses a clear view on the likely outcome if the dispute were to go to court. However, there is no power to impose a settlement. Private FDRs offer great advantages:
- They can happen before court proceedings are started or at any stage during the court process.
- There is very little delay.
- The parties have the power to choose an evaluator in whom they and their lawyers have confidence.
- The evaluator will have had the opportunity to read the papers and prepare for the occasion.
- The FDR can deal with all or any aspects of the dispute which the parties wish.
- The FDR can take place either at 29 Bedford Row or wherever else the parties wish. Our evaluators are happy to travel.
Please contact the Senior Clerk, James Shortall, for further information.