What is an ‘FDR’?

What is an ‘FDR’?

Bridget Garrood - Senior Consultant Solicitor - Divorce/ Finance/ LGBT+ Specialist

Bridget Garrood – Senior Consultant Solicitor – Divorce/ Finance/ LGBT+ Specialist

Anyone involved in financial remedy proceedings to sort out the financial settlement on divorce will come across the term ‘FDR’. But what does it mean?

Well, for a start it has nothing to do with a certain famous American President. The initials stand for ‘Financial Dispute Resolution’. An FDR is therefore a Financial Dispute Resolution appointment (the ‘appointment’ part is often left off for brevity).

Okay, but what exactly is it?

 

Discussion and negotiation

Before we explain what an FDR is, it is important to understand that the family justice system is not there just to impose its decisions upon families. The system recognises the importance of families resolving their problems themselves, rather than having their problems resolved by the court.

The reasons for this are many. Firstly, of course, if the court doesn’t have to decide the case then considerable valuable court time and resources will be saved.

What is an ‘FDR’?

But it is much more than that. The parties will also save the time, expense and stress involved in contested court proceedings. But perhaps most importantly, by agreeing matters themselves it is far more likely that they will reach a settlement that is acceptable to them, rather than having something imposed upon them by the court, with which both of them might be unhappy.

So the system has built into it mechanisms designed to encourage couples to resolve their disputes themselves wherever possible, rather than have the court resolve them for them.

And this is where FDRs come in.

Once the initial steps have been taken in a financial remedies application, in particular the parties have made full disclosure of their means (without which settlement negotiations obviously cannot take place), the court will fix an FDR.

The purpose of an FDR is quite simple. It is “a meeting held for the purposes of discussion and negotiation.” The rules tell us that: “Such meetings have been developed as a means of reducing the tension which inevitably arises in family disputes and facilitating settlement of those disputes.”

Present at the meeting will be the judge, both parties and their legal representatives, if any.

 

Best endeavours to reach agreement

Financial Dispute Resolution

The most important thing for the parties to know about the FDR is that they are expected to use their best endeavours to reach agreement on matters in issue between them.

This means that they should formulate their settlement proposals, set them out at the FDR, and enter into genuine negotiations, including giving proper consideration to the other party’s proposals. In short, they must make a serious effort to reach agreement with the other party.

And the judge will assist them with that effort, exploring avenues for compromise, and ensuring that the negotiations are conducted in a constructive way, with the best chance of success.

And if the parties are successful in reaching a full agreed settlement then the judge will make a consent order, setting out the terms of the agreement. The case will then be concluded.

If no agreement, or no full agreement, can be reached between the parties then the judge will give directions as to how the case should proceed, up to a final hearing.

The judge who conducted the FDR will take no further part in the proceedings, which will be passed to another judge.

The reason for this is that in order for the FDR to be effective, the parties must approach the occasion “openly and without reserve”.

This means that things may be said that would not otherwise be said – the parties must not be discouraged from being open, for fear that what they say might be used against them later in the proceedings. The rules therefore recognise that “Non-disclosure of the content of such meetings is vital and is an essential prerequisite for fruitful discussion directed to the settlement of the dispute between the parties.”

 

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