Fixed Fee Service for Resolving Financial Issues on Divorce

1st April 2016

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by Sam Bodger

This guide has been prepared to explain what happens during each stage of our fixed fee service for resolving financial issues on divorce. Generally, there are four stages involved in the process although it is often possible to settle without working through each stage.

You may choose to deal with one step on your own and seek our help with other steps – we are more than happy to work with you on this basis and we believe that our packages will allow you to seek help at whatever stage you choose.

We have also identified any areas of advice or further work that fall outside our standard service and the necessary fees and payment terms for each stage of the process.

We hope this guide is useful in explaining where you are in the process at any given time and lets you know what further steps might be needed. We appreciate the process may appear complicated to those unfamiliar with the law so if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact the Lawyer assigned to your case.

Step 1 – Financial Disclosure and Negotiation

Our aim is to achieve a legally binding financial agreement/Court Order through negotiation between the parties and/or their legal advisers without going to the Court.

To do that, each party must disclose to the other full details of their financial circumstances supported with documentary evidence. At this stage, such disclosure will be on a voluntary basis and if agreement is reached your case will be concluded at the end of this stage.

Should it be apparent from the start that your partner is unwilling to disclose information voluntarily and/or negotiate reasonably, we may advise you to immediately make an application to the Court and dispense with Step 1 all together.

Having been through Step 1 it may still become necessary to move on to Step 2.

What is included in Step 1?

Having met with you and recorded your understanding of the matrimonial assets and your financial position, we will give initial legal advice (where possible indicating the sort of settlement to be sought) and we will explain the
process of financial disclosure. This financial information is given in a Form E and we will assist you in completing that form and providing all the documentation required. On completion, we will exchange with your Spouse’s Solicitor, and we will then carefully consider the information and documentation provided by your partner, raising any relevant queries for your Spouse to clarify the information provided.

We will advise you as to any proposals we would recommend you make and/or upon any proposals received from your Spouse and manage any correspondence in relation to proposals and counter-proposals.

Hopefully, this will lead to an agreement, whereupon we will draft a Consent Order which is the document to be filed with the Court, for approval by the District Judge for conversion into a sealed Order of the Court. In support of that
application to the Court we will also prepare a brief financial statement as required by the Court.

If agreement cannot be reached we will discuss with you the next steps to be taken including the option of Mediation before progressing on to Step 2 and an application to the Court. Mediation is when an independent person helps you and your Spouse to come to an agreement.

What is not included in Step 1?

Our fixed price at this level does not include filing an application with the Court nor any work in connection with implementing the terms of any agreement/Consent Order such as conveyancing work. It does not include any work in relation to the Divorce for which a separate fixed service is available nor does it include any work relating to
any children issues.

How do I pay for Step 1?

The fixed price for Step 1 is £1,800 plus VAT. This does not include any Court fees or any other professional fees such as professional valuations, accountancy advice or Counsel’s fees. A Court fee of £45 will be payable if we are
able to apply for a Consent Order.

We are happy to discuss payment arrangements with you but generally, if you wish to benefit from the fixed price service we require payment by instalments as follows:

  • An initial payment of £600 to start the process.
  • A further payment of £600 at the point when we are ready to exchange financial disclosure
  • A final payment of £600 to advise you upon proposals and counter-proposals, following our consideration of the financial disclosure and any queries arising upon the same, and this payment will also cover the preparation of a Consent Order if agreement is reached, together with the filing of that application with the Court.

Step 2 – From Issue of Application to First Directions Appointment

If your negotiations at Step 1 have failed, you will need to make an application to the Court. Even if you have not instructed us at Step 1 we are happy to act for you from this stage.

Step 2 leads to a First Appointment at Court which is generally a Directions Appointment to allow the move on to Step 3. This appointment is required if there has been limited and insufficient disclosure or if further and better information and/or valuations and professional reports are required before a Financial Dispute Resolution
(FDR) appointment (Step 3). However, very often, we find that many people are in a position to avoid the First Directions Appointment and progress to the FDR (Step 3) immediately.

We have also found that if we have gone through the process of voluntary disclosure at Step 1, the work involved in preparing for a First Appointment has, in part, already been done. We therefore offer various options within Step 2
as follows:

Option A

This is available if we have already acted for you under Step 1.

What is included?

We will issue an application with the Court and update your financial disclosure as required by the Court. We will consider further your Spouse’s disclosure and raise a Questionnaire if required to obtain further and better information.

As required by the Court prior to the First Appointment we will prepare and file a brief Summary of Facts and Statement of Issues, a Chronology and Costs Estimate. We will advise you upon those summaries produced by your
Spouse’s Solicitor and we will represent you at Court at the First Appointment. On that occasion we will be seeking the Directions of the Court with regard to the timescale for each party to reply to Questionnaires and whether or not there is a need to appoint Experts for advice in relation to the value of properties or, occasionally, accountancy advice.

If the Appointment is in a local Court (which it generally will be) we will represent you ourselves. If the Court is some distance away, we will instruct a Barrister to attend Court on your behalf; indeed wherever your case is heard you are free to choose to brief a Barrister, but a Barrister’s costs will be in addition to the fixed costs we offer.

Option B

This option is available to clients who have not instructed us at Step 1 and where we have had no prior involvement in any financial disclosure.

What is included?

All the work referred to and undertaken under Option A, but in addition, we will be spending a greater length of time advising on, and completing, your financial disclosure.

What is not included in Options A and B?

We will prepare and file a Questionnaire if appropriate but we will not deal with Replies to any Questionnaires raised by your Spouse’s Solicitors nor will we be seeking to negotiate a settlement at this stage. The First Appointment
will be dealt with as a Directions Appointment only and we will not be seeking to convert it to an FDR (Step 3).

We would stress that we will only deal with your matter in this way if it is obvious that further Directions/information/valuations are required before negotiations can take place.

Option C

What is included?

This will include all of the work done under Option A and B but will include further work in considering  questionnaire’s with you and filing your Replies; considering Replies given by your Spouse to any Questionnaire, and preparing and filing with the Court a request that the First Appointment be converted to an FDR (Step 3).

We will file with the Court a more detailed Schedule of Assets and Summary of Issues and we will represent you at Court upon an FDR Appointment where we will negotiate with the other side and represent you before the District
Judge in setting out all matters. This will help the District Judge to recommend an appropriate settlement with the aim of you and your Spouse reaching agreement. If agreement is reached, we will draft the Consent Order for approval by the District Judge at that appointment.

What is not included in Option C?

Should you wish to brief a Barrister to represent you, his or her fees will be an additional expense to you.

What further work is not included in all of the above Options?

As with all Steps, the fixed price will not include any work in relation to the divorce or any children issues. It will not include the cost of implementing any agreement.

How do I pay for Step 2?

  • Option A – £1,800
  • Option B – £2,500
  • Option C – £3,500

We are happy to accept payment by instalments as follows:

Option A

  • £900 plus VAT and the Court fee (currently £240) upon issuing your application
  • £900 plus VAT upon financial disclosure being exchanged.

Option B

  • £1,250 plus VAT and the Court fee (currently £240) upon issuing the application
  • £1,250 plus VAT upon exchanging financial disclosure.

Option C

  • £1,250 plus VAT and the Court fee (currently £240) upon issuing the application
  • £1,250 plus VAT upon exchanging financial disclosure.
  • £1,000 plus VAT 7 days prior to the Court Appointment.

Counsel’s fees, Court fees and Expert’s fees are not included in the above fixed fees. If we are unable to represent you we will make an allowance for a barrister’s fee within the fixed fee.

Step 3 – Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) Hearing

If you have failed to reach agreement at the First Appointment your application proceeds to another hearing known as a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing (FDR). At this hearing it is expected that all information and  documentation from all parties has been made available and all valuations and Expert’s reports have been filed
and considered. You and your Spouse are bound to have filed with the Court their proposals  for settlement.

At the hearing negotiations take place outside the Court and you are then given an opportunity to appear before the District Judge who will listen to a summary of each party’s financial circumstances and their respective proposals. The District Judge will then give an indication as to how he might expect matters to be settled if there were to be a full hearing. He cannot at this stage impose any settlement but the aim is to guide you and enable you to negotiate further and, hopefully, settle your respective claims by agreement.

What is included in Step 3?

We will prepare and file your Replies to any Questionnaires raised by your Spouse supplying the supporting documentation. We will consider with your Replies to any Questionnaire we have raised and will go through the documentation carefully to advise you upon the making of proposals. If Expert opinions and/or valuations
have been directed we will formally instruct those Experts and liaise with them where necessary.

We will advise you on the proposals to be made and upon any counter-proposals received from your Spouse.  Throughout this time we will continue to negotiate and endeavour to settle your claims. If that fails, and an FDR proceeds, we will prepare and file a full summary which will set out the historical background of your
marriage/financial circumstances, current assets  and liabilities, any issues to be considered by the District Judge, and your proposals. We will also file with the Court an updated Chronology and Costs Estimate.

We will represent you at Court both in negotiations and in appearing before the District Judge. These appointments can often take up to 3 hours if not longer.

If your Court is not local to us we will instruct a Barrister. If agreement is reached at Court we will draft the proposed Order to be approved by the District Judge on that day.

What is not included in Step 3?

The fixed price does not include any work in relation to the divorce or any children issues nor 0any conveyancing work required to implement the agreement.

How do I pay for Step 3?

Again, there are 2 options.

If you have chosen Options A or B at Step 2, the fixed price for Step 3 will be £2,500 plus VAT but does not include Counsel’s fees, Court fees or Expert’s fees.

We are happy to accept payments by instalments as follows:

  • Payment of £1,250 plus VAT at the start of the step.
  • Payment of a further £1,250 plus VAT on completion of all information gathering and before advice is given in relation to settlement proposals.

If you have chosen Option C at Step 2 but have failed to reach agreement the fixed price will be £1,500 plus VAT, not including Counsel’s fees, Court fees or Expert’s fees.

We are happy to accept payments by instalments:

  • Payment of £750 plus VAT at the start of the step.
  • Payment of £750 plus VAT on completion of the information gathering and before advice is given in relation to
    proposals to settle.

Please note that the above fixed fees do not cover any work that may be required in the event that further interim applications to the Court are required for Directions. Such applications will incur an additional cost which we will discuss with you should the need arise. If we are unable to represent you we will make an allowance for a barrister’s fee within the fixed fee.

Step 4 – Final Hearing

If your case has not been settled by the end of Step 3 a full and Final Hearing will be required. At this hearing, both the parties will give evidence to the Court in relation to their financial circumstances and both parties will be cross-examined by their Spouse’s Lawyer. The District Judge will then decide the outcome of your case.

What is included in Step 4?

There is a substantial amount of preparation for a final hearing and we will:

  • Update all financial disclosure and information previously exchanged and filed with the Court.
  • Prepare and file any narrative statements which the Court may direct.
  • Prepare and index paginated bundles for use at the hearing.
  • Advise you upon the Court process and your evidence.
  • Prepare a full Brief for a Barrister to represent you.

How do I pay for Step 4?

The fixed price for Step 4 is £1,500 plus VAT but does not include Court fees or any other professional fees in relation to valuations and Expert’s reports, or Barrister’s fees. It does not include any additional applications that may be
required or attendance at Court for Directions nor does it include our attendance at Court with your Barrister at the final hearing. Should you wish us to attend or we advise that it is in your interests, we will charge in accordance with the fee earner’s hourly rate.

This fixed fee is only available where we have acted for you at an earlier stage in the proceedings.

Payment for Step 4 must be made in full at the start of Step 4.

If you require advice about any of these areas, or any other legal matter, do not hesitate to contact us by email
info@fraserdawbarns.com or phone one of our offices.

Wisbech 01945 461456

King’s Lynn 01553 666600

Downham Market 01366 383171

March 01354 602880

Ely 01353 383483

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