New rules require parties to make early settlement proposals in financial remedy proceedings

New rules require parties to make early settlement proposals in financial remedy proceedings

The rules governing the procedure to be used in family court proceedings (the ‘Family Procedure Rules’) have been amended. The new rules include amendments that will affect how many cases are dealt with, and will therefore be of interest to many litigants, particularly those involved in financial remedy proceedings connected with divorce.

We will not cover all of the amendments here (you can find a link to them below), but the following are probably the most interesting.

 

Compulsory settlement proposalsearly settlement proposals in financial remedy proceedings

Perhaps the most important amendment relates to the putting forward of settlement proposals in financial remedy proceedings.

Until now parties to financial remedy proceedings were not required to put forward settlement proposals until just prior to the final hearing of the case. That is not to say of course that it is not a good idea to put forward proposals – it is usually best to try to settle the case by agreement, rather than go to an expensive final hearing. We would normally therefore advise clients to put forward proposals, once they have sufficient information to ascertain their entitlement (including information about the other party’s means.)

However, as from the 6th of July, when the new rule comes into effect, there will be a duty on the parties to put forward settlement proposals much earlier.

In most financial remedy cases the court will fix a Financial Dispute Resolution appointment (‘FDR’) shortly after the financial remedy application has been issued. The purpose of the FDR is to provide the parties with an opportunity to negotiate a final financial settlement, with the input and assistance of a judge.

The new rule provides that where the case has not been settled at the FDR the court can direct that the parties put forward open settlement proposals, by such date as the court directs. If the court does not make a direction, then the proposals must be put forward within 21 days after the date of the FDR appointment.

This new rule is obviously going to affect many financial remedy cases, the intention obviously being that more cases will be settled earlier.

 

Stricter rules on costs estimates Stacks of pound coins

The new rules also introduce stricter requirements regarding the filing of costs estimates in financial remedy proceedings.

One requirement is that not less than one day before every hearing or appointment within the proceedings, each party must file with the court and serve on each other party an estimate of the costs incurred by that party up to the date of that hearing or appointment.

The intention here is to try to keep control of spiralling costs in financial remedy proceedings. Whether the rule is successful in achieving this, we will have to see.

 

Disclosing communications with the court

The last new rule that we want to mention refers to all family proceedings, not just financial remedy proceedings.

The rule introduces a requirement that any communication between a party to proceedings and the court must be disclosed to, and if in writing (whether in paper or electronic format) copied to, the other party or parties or their representatives, unless there is a compelling reason for not doing so.

The rule applies to ‘substantial’ communications, not communications that are purely routine.

All communications required to be disclosed must state on their face that they are being copied to the other party or parties, and if they do not they will usually be returned to the sender without being considered by the court.

The rationale behind this new rule may be to stop any litigant, particularly one who is not represented by a lawyer, attempting to gain an advantage by communicating with the court without telling the other party.

If you are interested, you can find the Family Procedure Rules here, and the amendment rules here.