The Family Court continues to struggle to service and decide the cases that come before it and more than ever we are seeing cases postponed at short notice due to judicial unavailability. The implication for parties is stark, often incurring Barristers’ fees that are “deemed” yet facing many more months delay before their hearing will be effective and at a further cost to them.

These struggles have seen a sharp increase in the use of various forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and particularly in the form of private FDRs and Arbitration. Mediation remains another helpful form of ADR that can be successful in appropriate cases.

This article focuses on the use and benefits of a private FDR in family finance cases.

FDR is reference to the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing encountered within court proceedings. The Judge’s task at FDR is to help the parties compromise an agreement, using their experience and indications to focus the negotiations and hopefully, enable the parties to find a pragmatic middle ground. Whilst very helpful, the Court FDR was often handicapped by the pressures on the Judge, with a busy list meaning that the Judge would only have time to glance through the papers and a finite window in which to assist the negotiations. Further problems include that some FDRs would be listed before part-time Judges with very limited knowledge of family work and whilst ready to proceed, parties could be waiting many months for their hearing to arrive.

With these pressures mounting, we have encouraged and acted in many cases where we have organised the FDR privately, with a Judge that is appointed by the parties (and therefore a specialist Solicitor, Barrister or retired Judge in this field). A whole day can be allocated so that there are no pressures from other cases and on a date that is convenient for all. The process is completely confidential and the Judge will read all of the papers before the day, so that they are familiar with every aspect of the case and consequently, they are best able to assist the parties in resolving their dispute.

The private FDRs that we have organised have had a high success rate, with final orders secured on paper through the Court to mirror the terms that have been agreed. We can provide further information, advice and support on the private FDR process if it is something that you would like to consider. In that regard, do contact a member of our specialist family team and take advantage of our discounted fixed fee initial consultation. Our e-mail address is [email protected] and our telephone number is 01277 889193 (Essex)  020 35537115 (London).