As I take off my big winter coat I am excited for the day ahead, and equally excited to have escaped the cold breeze outside. Today is another freezing and dark morning, signs that winter is well and truly arriving. I am sure that I am not built for this climate!
I can see the German Market making its annual appearance across the street from our office. I love having a look round each year…and how perfect that I am now working across from it. I suppose the taste of mulled wine and warm pretzels will help to make this winter weather bearable!
But I’m not always making my way to the office. Last week I was fortunate enough to accompany one of the partners to court for an FDR hearing. FDR is a commonly used acronym for the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing. Although I have done my fair share of work experience in the family law field, I had never attended an FDR and I found the process extremely interesting. In the previous week I had read through the case and its complexities and was thus eager to see how the day would pan out.
An FDR is a meeting held in a court and partly with a judge present. The parties involved in the dispute are under an obligation to try to reach an agreement, it is in simple terms a negotiation process. The purpose of FDR hearings is to somehow assist those involved to settle their disputes, in addition avoiding the huge expense of a court trial. If the parties can forge an agreement at the hearing they also avoid the stress which comes with a potential trial.
An FDR is commonly used in matrimonial cases but can also be used to settle financial matters regarding the children of unmarried couples. Before an FDR, the parties exchange disclosure of their finances in a Form E, something which I have come into contact with regularly at the firm. The Form E, in addition to valuations and expert evidence, is collected before the hearing in the hope that the parties will arrive with full knowledge of each other’s finances. The properties involved and information about any other relevant issues relevant to the dispute. This ensures that the solicitors, barristers and clients are in the best position to make arrangements for the future. The instructed barristers negotiate with one another at the hearing, but only agreeing upon an issue when given express consent from the client. A judge can also be seen at the listed time of the hearing, at this point the judge is available to give ‘an indication’ as to what they would order if in the position off deciding the case. This can be particularly useful in concentrating the parties minds on the strengths and weaknesses of their case, thus aiding the negotiations.
Fortunately my first experience of an FDR was a pleasant one, with the parties settling without the need for a judge. We had reached an agreement and it felt very satisfying. I was fascinated by the process and enjoyed seeing the instructed barrister at work. I took great pride knowing that I was working for such a prestigious firm and that we had been able to secure the best possible arrangements for our client.
As I sit at my desk to record the attendance notes of the hearing, the tasks for the day have begun to pile up. I am now in the warmth, hot chocolate in hand and ready to get to work. I look forward to telling you more about the family law profession and my days spent at Stowe Family Law.
To read more about FDR hearings see http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2011/06/28/the-fdr-hearing-and-the-first-appointment-what-you-need-to-know/