Financial Remedies Courts: Structure document and Good Practice Protocol
An Overall Structure of the Financial Remedies Courts and the Role and Function of the Lead Judge was published for the Financial Remedies Courts (FRCs) together with an accompanying Good Practice Protocol (both attached)
The FRCs have been established as a subsidiary structure working within the Family Court. The President of the Family Division has appointed a National Lead Judge and a Deputy National Lead Judge to oversee the operation of the FRCs.
The operation of the FRCs, and the creation of FRC zones and the appointment and role of the FRC Lead Judges within the zones, is attached on the second document
The first document titled Financial Remedies Courts Good Practice Protocol sets out the aims and objectives of the FRCs to improve the delivery of financial remedies for families involved in court proceedings relating to issues arising from the dissolution of relationships.
The FRC pilot scheme is slowly being rolled out, but currently does not apply to local courts, nearest seems to be London courts eg Croydon, and to our east Brighton, Worthing, Guildford. I am sure it will apply soon locally, and the scheme will lead to better delivery of an application of financial law to financial remedy hearings. Many of us, will have been in front of a DDJ who has not had a financial remedy background, and shuddered.
The following brief notes are taken from the good practice protocol to give you a taste, (schedules are referred to herein but not included).
FRC’s aim is to improve the delivery of financial remedy hearings (defined in sch 1). It is hoped to extend to TOLATA and I(PFF&D)A, subject to primary legislation.
- There is a National Lead Judge (NLJ) and Deputy NLJ to oversee the FRC’s.
- There are zones, and Leading Judges (LJ) operate within those zones.
- The LJ identifies FRC judges to deal with financial remedy.
- There are allocation guidelines contained in sch 2 eg: value of assets being relevant.
- Each FRC zone will operate an allocation procedure.
- On issue of application, pro-forma allocation questionnaire should be filed (pro-forma in sch 3).
- First appointment will be before an FRCJ 30-45 mins or exceptionally 60 or more if complex (to be indicated on allocation questionnaire).
- If parties can agree directions an accelerated first appointment procedure will apply (see sch 4 generally and for pro-forma order).
NB Little reference is made to LIP’s !
- Judges will encourage settlement eg arbitration, mediation, divorce surgery and private FDR’s (separate considerations apply).
- The protocol lists 6 websites offering guidance.
- Standard Family Orders should be used.
- FRC judges are to keep up to date with law.
- FPRr9.14(5) questionnaires should not exceed 4 pages, (12 font, 1&1/2 or double spaced* - complex case, reluctant discloser may require a different approach) hard copy to be lodged by 11am or emailed to allocated judge by 2pm working day before.
- Absent specific reasons, position statements (ditto*) and including schedules should not exceed:-
- For 1st appointment 5 pages
- For FDR 10 pages
- For final hearing 15 pages.
- Opposing advocates are encouraged to produce an agreed asset schedule.
- If one or more of the parties are legally represented then an order should be drawn before the parties leave court or if not practicable within 2 working days.
- FRC judges will respect the well being of advocates (hooray !), hearings not to start before 10am and the court day to end between 4 - 4.30.
- There shall not be an expectation that emails sent after 6pm be answered before 8.30am unless there is a prospect of a settlement or reduction of issues.
- FCR’s to adopt an environmentally friendly process eg paperless if possible.
Onwards and upwards !