Final financial hearings on divorce – what to expect - Family Law Partners

Final financial hearings on divorce – what to expect

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Court proceedings dealing with the financial aspects of a divorce have a beginning, middle and an end. The ‘beginning’ a first appointment hearing (FDA), ‘middle’ a financial dispute resolution hearing (FDR) and the ‘end’ a final hearing. This format is set up to encourage parties to engage in proposals for settlement at every opportunity in the hope that an early resolution of the financial matters in issue can be reached to bring the proceedings to an end.

The FDR itself is a hearing where the sole focus is for the parties is to reach a settlement and avoid a final hearing altogether, and during this hearing the Judge gives an indication as to what the likely outcome of the case is which often unlocks the matters in issue. As a result, very few cases reach the ‘end’ of the court process and most cases settle in advance, or immediately before, a final hearing.

Where a final hearing is necessary, you will usually find that one or both parties have not meaningfully engaged in the process for settlement or one party is wedded to an outcome that is not realistic, such as retaining the family home when it is the main (or often only) asset, or not wishing to share their pension. Sometimes, however, even when every attempt has been made to reach an agreement there can still be an impasse on some or all the issues in dispute on which judicial input is needed for the parties to move forward.  A final hearing is therefore only required when a decision needs to be made by the court because the parties have been unable to reach one themselves.

When that happens and once a judge has heard from both parties at a final hearing, and sometimes even third-party experts (such as a pensions actuary or accountant), they will give a judgment. That judgment will determine how the assets are to be divided and what order should be made.

Preparing for a final hearing

Below, is a brief explanation of what needs to happen in preparation before a final hearing and what to expect at the hearing itself.


Each party will have been required to take specific steps in the months leading up to the final hearing. These steps will likely include:

  • Sharing updated financial disclosure/information to ensure that both parties, and the court, have the up-to-date financial information to allow workable orders to be made.
  • Obtaining any further expert evidence required (for example instructing an estate agent to provide an updated property valuation, tax advice, updating pension report, company valuations).
  • Filing a witness statement to address specific criteria. This is often referred to as a ‘section 25 statement’ (referring to section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 or Schedule 5, Part 5 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004) and which can be summarised as follows;
    • The capital and income resources available to the parties, either existing or reasonably foreseeable.
    • Details of the financial needs of the parties, including:
    • their standard of living;
    • their ages and the length of the marriage; and
    • any disabilities.
    • The court also considers the following additional factors:
    • the respective contributions of each party;
    • the conduct of each party (although only in exceptional cases); and
    • any benefit either party will lose as a result of the divorce (such as a spouse’s pension).

The section 25 statement will need to address each of the above criteria that is relevant in your case and is akin to a checklist against which the judge determining the outcome can check that all matters have been considered in arriving at a fair outcome.

  • Setting out an open proposal for settlement which will be seen by the judge. Please note that open proposals for settlement are different from without prejudice proposals for settlement as the latter cannot be put before the court and are designed to allow parties to make concessions in the spirit of compromise without impacting how they are running their case.
  • Filing timetable / witness template to ensure the hearing runs smoothly.
  • Position statements are filed by the parties setting out in summary format each party’s case, updates, and the matters in issue together with your preliminary documents that should include an agreed chronology and asset schedule.
  • Preparing a statement of legal costs incurred and together with estimate to the conclusion of the final hearing and the implementation of the order (Form H1).
  • Filing a bundle at court with all the relevant papers for the judge to consider which must be filed in line with practice direction 27A of the Family Procedure Rules which sets out the rules for the content, format and page length of the bundle.

Some cases require a pre-trial review, which is a short procedural hearing, in advance of the final hearing. The purpose of this hearing is for the court to check whether earlier directions have been complied with and to check if there are any final steps that need to be directed in advance of the final hearing.

The final hearing

If settlement cannot be reached and the parties have taken the necessary steps in preparation, what can they expect at the final hearing itself?

Depending on the complexity and issues in dispute, a final hearing is given a time estimate in advance which could be between 1 day and several weeks depending on the matters in issue and number of witnesses. Generally speaking most final hearings can be dealt with within 1 to 3 days.

On the first day, the judge will often be allocated reading time. In an ideal world, the judge will have had time to review the papers and understand the issues before them before the hearing starts. However, with court resources and time so stretched, urgent cases can be listed during the judges’ allocated reading time. The lack of available judicial time can be a major disadvantage of the court system.

Despite all the costs in preparing for and attending the hearing having been incurred, it is possible the judge may encourage the parties to have a final attempt at reaching an agreement before the hearing begins.

The general view is that it is always better for parties to reach a consensus without the need for the court to intervene. Reaching agreement between the parties typically means they are both prepared to accept and live with the outcome, that being one that is in their own hands and not determined by a judge and this therefore mitigates the ‘litigation risk’ of an outcome being imposed.

Once the hearing begins, there will be some brief opening speeches by the parties’ legal representatives following which the parties will give their evidence. This evidence is called their ‘evidence in chief’, is guided by the party’s barrister and is often brief as it will predominantly be based on them confirming the content of evidence already before the court which will include their Forms E, replies to questionnaire and their section 25 statements.

Each party will then be ‘cross-examined’ by the other party’s barrister (or the other party directly if they are a litigant in person). Cross-examination is what features in many legal dramas and films, where the other party ‘put their case’ by questioning the witness to challenge their evidence. Being on the receiving end of a cross-examination can be nerve wracking and uncomfortable, however unlike the movies barristers are not given free rein to ask questions that are inappropriate, and a judge would intervene if matters raised are not relevant or are unprofessional or do not take the matter any further forward. There is rarely a winner or loser in family proceedings and in many cases, parties need to maintain a relationship to co-parent their children and so cross-examination should remain courteous but persuasive.  If experts are called as witnesses, the barristers will also ask them questions of their evidence.

A final hearing is ended by closing submissions from the barristers summing up the evidence and making the final arguments of their case.

The judge will then be given time to consider and write their judgment. In many cases, judgment will be given within a few hours and on the day of hearing closing submissions. However, in some cases, the judge needs more time. This can be frustrating as additional court time needs to be allocated for judgment to be given at a later date which could be weeks or months ahead. It is possible for a written judgment to be provided instead. Once judgment has been given, the parties’ barristers prepare a final court order reflecting the decision on how the assets should be split which is submitted to the judge for approval.

Important points to consider

Final hearings are the exception rather than the norm. They carry inherent litigation risk as the final outcome is taken out of the parties’ hands.

The court system is overwhelmed and there is not always sufficient time to deal with matters as fully as a party would expect. It is not unheard of for parties to prepare for a final hearing to find out the day before that a judge is unavailable, particularly since the pandemic when the court system is being stretched to breaking point. Court delays often result in there being several months between an FDR and a final hearing being listed.

Final hearings are also inherently expensive and stressful. The cost of a final hearing is often disproportionate to the matters in issue and a cost proportionate approach throughout can often highlight the cost benefit (if any) of proceeding to a final hearing. Nevertheless, they are sometimes necessary, particularly where one party has been unreasonable in their approach or unwilling to engage.

It is important to remain mindful that court is not the only way to reach a conclusion. Where an impasse has been reached and it is unlikely a solution-based method (such as mediation, collaborative law, inter solicitor negotiation, early neutral evaluation etc) will result in an agreed resolution, arbitration is worth considering as it can be arranged quickly and can often avoids the delay of the court process thereby saving costs.  There is more information about family law arbitration here.

Family Law Partners are committed to and have wide-ranging experience in the numerous methods of dispute resolution available when considering how the assets upon divorce should be distributed which helps us to assist the majority of our clients reaching settlement long before a final hearing.

Charlotte Plowman is an experienced family law specialist within our Horsham team. If you would like further information on the options available in resolving a dispute regarding the division of assets upon a divorce, please feel free to contact Charlotte or another member of our dedicated team for a confidential discussion about your personal circumstances. .

15 responses on “Final financial hearings on divorce – what to expect

  1. If the judgment is given on the last day of the final hearing. Does the judge still issue a written judgment for both parties afterwards?

    1. Dear Karen- thank you for your comment. It will be at a judge’s discretion as to whether they give their judgement orally or if it will be written. If a judgement is provided orally and it was recorded by the Court, it is possible to apply for a transcript after the hearing (there is a transcription fee based on word count). The provision of a transcribed judgement will again be at the judge’s discretion. I hope this is helpful.

  2. Great information, very helpful.
    Can a final financial hearing be adjourned? and why?

    1. Hi John – I am pleased you found my blog helpful. Yes, it is possible for a final hearing to be adjourned and there may be several reasons to do so. For example, to provide the parties with additional time to explore an out of Court resolution. Please get in touch if I can be of assistance.

  3. Hi wanted to know how much does it cost for a final hearing and can a court ask for a copy of a will of a living person as the husband wants half of the parents property

    1. Hi Andria. Thank you for your message. Firstly, the likely cost of a final hearing will very much depend on the complexities and amount of work to be undertaken to prepare your case. Secondly, there can be a range of circumstances in which the interests of third parties will be relevant in any financial proceedings and this will depend on the facts of the case, for example if there are Trusts interests of which you are a beneficiary. Whilst I cannot give specific advice regarding your matter, it would be unusual for a Court to order disclosure of a living person’s Will as they would be within their rights to amend their Will and it therefore cannot be relied upon.

  4. Thanks Charlotte for your prompt response. I was puzzled as to the request to get a copy of the will as my mom is not even living here in the UK (Caribbean) and thus couldn’t fathom why this is relevant as she is still very much alive and I have another sibling which means that his wife can also request the same if this is the accepted norm. Very bizarre court hearing outcome.

  5. On an application to vary a spousal maintenance court order can we ship FDR and go straight to the final hearing to save time and money as compromise won’t happen?
    Any advice would be appreciated

    1. Thanks for your comment, if the application of a variation of spousal maintenance only is issued by the Court after 4 June 2018, the application will be dealt with under the fast-track procedure. The aim of the fast-track procedure is to reduce the time it takes to resolve variation of maintenance disputes and to seek to resolve them at the first hearing. The first hearing, or part of it, may be used as a financial dispute resolution hearing. The Court may still order a financial dispute resolution under fast-track procedure, however, if such a hearing is not considered appropriate the Court may list the matter straight to a final hearing. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like further advice specific to your situation.

  6. Hi
    We’re due a 1st Hearing in 6 weeks time but my ex may now be willing to mediate instead. How do I defer/adjourn the Hearing (rather than cancel completely) and is this using a form D11? I’m not using solicitors at this stage

    1. Dear Darrell

      Thank you for your query. Whilst I am unable to give you specific advice, it should be possible for you and your ex to seek to adjourn a forthcoming hearing by consent on the basis you agree to attend mediation. Our recommended course of action would be to submit a joint letter to the Court and provide a draft order setting out your reasons to adjourn the hearing and ask the Court to list a further hearing in a few months’ time. The Court may ask for a D11 application to be submitted and you can do so if necessary. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like further advice in respect of your situation.

      Kind regards


  7. Morning Charlotte,
    How should I get prepared if my ex husband rejected the FDR as he said it won’t be successful. He is using each opportunity to break me though this. He doesn’t clean in the house, he doesn’t follow the children routines and everything is all over the place, even though I try my best, he basically ruins this.
    We still live under the same roof and I am under domestic abuse protection.
    Now we have to go to the final one, what should I do, can I gather some evidence on his behavior how everything looks like behind the door?

    Thanks Jo

    1. Dear Jo, thank you for getting in touch. I am sure this must be a worrying time for you. It is very difficult for us to provide advice in relation to specific circumstances as we would need to understand a lot more about your situation. I would strongly recommend that you seek legal advice from a specialist family lawyer who is a member of Resolution. Alternatively please do contact us and a member of our team would be very happy to talk to you about your situation.

  8. I have been subject to what I believe to be bias in a first appointment. Apart from my ex wife to be being able to speak freely and me not, she discussed an earlier Without Prejudice offer openly disparagingly and in detail albeit inaccurately. I also sent a letter of concern due to lies in her case summary (prepared by a solicitor) that the judge professed not to have received. Can I ask for a recording of the meeting and/or ask for the judge to be replaced for the FDR as I am unlikely to receive any kind of balanced judgement from her.

    1. Thank you for your comment. We can’t advise on specific questions in this forum. Please contact our specialist team for a discussion about your personal circumstances. Many thanks.

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