Family Law Week :Financial Remedies News Round up
The Ministry of Justice has published an information pack and draft court forms before the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (DDSA 2020) comes into effect on 6 April 2022
The information pack outlines the reforms to divorce law introduced by the DDSA 2020. The pack also sets out important dates and deadlines in the lead-up to 6 April 2022 when a new paper and digital application process will operate for solicitors and litigants in person. The pack provides practical guidance about the new law and application process.
Important dates and deadlines:
- Proceedings issued on or before 5 April 2022 will continue to progress under the existing law, whether submitted digitally or on paper. These applications will not be impacted by the commencement of the DDSA 2020. Applications submitted under the existing law that are not issued by 6 April 2022 will be returned to the applicant, who will need to complete an application under the new law. To ensure applications under the existing law are issued in time:
• The court must receive all paper applications by 4.00 pm on 31 March 2022.
• All digital applications must be submitted online no later than 4.00 pm on 31 March 2022. The digital system will not allow applications to be submitted after this time and will not accept new applications until 10.00 am on 6 April 2022 under the new law.
• Urgent applications will continue to be accepted and issued where possible, if received by post or email, before 4.00 pm on 5 April 2022. If submitting an urgent application by email, practitioners should use the following address: onlineDFRjurisdiction@justice.gov.uk. This email address will be unmonitored after 4.00 pm on 5 April 2022.
• Applications should be completed as early as possible before the relevant deadline to ensure they are issued in time.
Family Procedure Rule Committee: publication of approved minutes of meeting on 6 December 2021
The agenda and approved minutes of the Family Procedure Rule Committee (FPRC) meeting on 6 December 2021 have been published. Points of interest include:
- Proposed new Practice Direction (PD) 3B will cover the prohibition on an abuser cross-examining a victim of domestic abuse in person in family proceedings (section 65, Domestic Abuse Act 2021). The MoJ will launch a consultation on the new measures and the proposals for statutory guidance to accompany the proposed measures.
• The International Family Working Group (IFWG) is working on implementing the judgment in Re G (A Child) UKSC 9 via Practice Guidance on Case Management in International Child Abduction Cases. The IFWG recommended that PD 12F should be amended to insert a reference to the Practice Guidance once it has been finalised.
• The Enforcement Working Group proposed a new standard directions order for general enforcement applications to be piloted for a year from the end of May 2022. The FPRC agreed this could take place subject to fine tuning of the order.
• Work is underway on an online portal for adoption applications. The service should be live from early 2022, initially for placement order applications with other types of applications being added over time.
• A working group has been established to consider the judgment in H v R  EWHC 1943 (Fam)
• The Committee discussed the relationship between guidance notes and the FPR, and in particular linking content on the FPR online with the President's guidance and how best to progress this.
New Financial Remedies Court efficiency statement issued
The Financial Remedies Court national lead judge, Mostyn J, and the deputy national lead judge, HHJ Hess, issued a new statement on the efficient conduct of financial remedy hearings proceeding in the Financial Remedies Court below High Court judge level, following recommendations by the Farquhar Committee. The statement is in addition to that issued in 2016 for High Court judge level cases. Templates for a composite case summary and schedule of assets and income, a document setting out the primary principles of the Financial Remedies Court (previously titled the Good Practice Protocol and now substantially abridged) and a revised lead judge job description have also been issued.
Advisory notice on correct use of Composite Asset Schedule ES2 in financial remedy proceedings
The Financial Remedies Court (FRC) has endorsed an advisory notice prepared by the FLBA on the correct use of the ES2 (Composite Asset Schedule) in financial remedy proceedings. The note clarifies that the parties do not need to agree the values for assets, liabilities and incomes in the ES2. The column for assets and liabilities held by each party (or held jointly) is divided in half, so each party can set out the values they ascribe. Each party must set out their "side" of all three columns. Both sides of the columns should be completed, even where the values are agreed. Other points:
- Where the figures for an item are different (save for values less than £50 apart), the parties must highlight the competing values in yellow. Different sub-totals do not need to be highlighted.
• Liabilities or overdrawn bank accounts should be entered as negative numbers. All numbers should be recorded in sterling, even if the parties cannot agree the exchange rate.
• The parties can add calculation boxes to calculate total combined resources, if they consider this helpful. Those calculations should show the combined total of the values asserted by each party.
• Where there is a dispute about whether an asset exists, or whether it should be included, it should be recorded. The party disputing its inclusion should leave a blank cell for the asset's value and the competing adjacent cells must be highlighted in yellow to highlight the dispute.
• Where it is asserted that one or both of the parties has a beneficial interest in an asset legally owned by a third party, that asset must be recorded. The party denying the beneficial interest should leave the value cells blank, with the adjacent cells highlighted yellow to highlight the dispute.
• For joint assets, the entire asset must be recorded in the "joint" column. The asserted beneficial interests in joint assets must not be recorded and apportioning the value across the parties' columns is not acceptable.
• It is best practice for the ES2 to travel between the parties or their solicitors when any updating disclosure is served, so the ES2 can be updated before any court hearings.