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Divorce: Starting financial proceedings – Form A

7 min read

Divorce Starting financial proceedings Form A

Everything you need to know about the role of Form A in divorce proceedings. 

What is a Form A?

On divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, it is advisable for the separating couple to obtain a legally binding financial order that sets out their financial settlement.

In some circumstances, where a couple cannot reach an agreement (by consent), it is necessary to make an application to court for the financial aspects of the separation to be resolved. The “Form A” refers to the application form which is used by the applicant, i.e., the spouse or civil partner applying for a financial order in the family court.

A financial order can include the following (this is not an exhaustive list):

Initial considerations

Before an application for a financial order is made to the court, it is important to consider whether the financial side of the divorce can be resolved in any other way. Where possible, family law solicitors should try to assist the separating couple to resolve their differences quickly and fairly, and to narrow the issues between them.

Prior to an application being made, the separating couple can exchange early financial disclosure provided the couple agree. This can help to start the process, minimise costs and delay.

Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

The spouse or civil partner wanting to apply for a financial order must attend a MIAM before proceedings are issued. A MIAM is the name given to the first meeting with a mediator. The other spouse or civil partner will not attend that initial meeting. The meeting will last about an hour and will give the spouse or civil partner an opportunity to discuss the issues in their case with the mediator to see whether mediation is appropriate for them. At the end of the meeting, the mediator will indicate whether the case is suitable for mediation or not.

What if I have remarried?

If you have remarried at the time of applying for a financial order you may not be able to make an application, or that application may be limited. If you have remarried but not resolved financial matters from your first marriage, it is always advisable to take specialist advice from a family lawyer on the scope of any application you may have.  

Is there a time limit for make an application for a financial order?

No, but the passage in time may be taken into account, particularly if it is decades on.

How do I apply for a financial order?

The Form A can be applied for online or on paper. The latest guidance indicates that online applications are likely to become mandatory in the near future.

Filling out the Form A

The spouse or civil partner will be asked to provide information about the following:

The court fee for applying for a financial order will be payable on filing the Form A, the current court fee is £275.

Issuing Form A

When the Form A is filed with the court, the court will ‘issue’ the Form A and a Form C to the separating couple or their legal representatives. The court’s seal will be affixed onto the Form A and a case number will be assigned. The Form C is the notice of the first appointment (i.e. the details of the first court hearing). The Form C will set out when the separating couple need to file and exchange financial disclosure and prepare court documents (such as a statement of the issues in the case and a chronology).

Does the Form A need to be sent to anyone else?

The person applying for the financial order should consider whether any third parties need to be notified about their application. For example, if there is a property with a mortgage that needs to be dealt with then lenders will need to be notified, or, if a pension sharing order is being applied for then the pension provider will also need to be notified.

What happens after the Form A is sent to court?

The court will then list the first appointment, this is the name given to the first court hearing in financial remedy proceedings. The first appointment should be listed for a date not less than 12 weeks and not more than 16 weeks from the date the Form A is filed.

At the first appointment, the judge will consider what information it needs from each spouse or civil partner in order for the case to be determined and they will then direct the couple or their legal representatives to produce the evidence required within a set timeframe. For example, if the spouses or civil partners do not agree on the valuation of the family home then the judge may order that the same be valued before the second court hearing.

What happens after a first appointment?

The next court hearing in financial remedy proceedings is called an FDR (financial dispute resolution appointment).

By this point, the separating couple should have the evidence they require from the other spouse or civil partner in order to reach a financial settlement (e.g. expert evidence such as a pension report). They will also have had the opportunity to respond to any questions raised in relating to their respective financial disclosure and will have to make at least one ‘without prejudice’ offer to settle matters. As the proposals are marked ‘without prejudice’, it means it cannot be put before the court at any other hearing other than the FDR.

At the FDR, the judge will have reviewed the respective settlement proposals of the separating couple together with other information about their finances. The judge will then give an ‘indication’ (i.e. their view) to the separating couple on how a judge at the final hearing would likely determine the case. This helps to assist the separating couple with settlement negotiations.

If the separating couple reach an agreement about their finances at the FDR then the judge can approve the same provided it's fair and reasonable.

What happens at a final hearing?

The third court hearing in financial remedy proceedings is appropriately named ‘the final hearing’. The judge at the final hearing must be different to the judge that presided over the FDR.

At the final hearing, the judge will hear submissions from the respective legal representatives involved in the case and the separating couple may be questioned on the evidence disclosed.

If the separating couple cannot reach a settlement between themselves at this stage then the judge will determine how the finances are to be dealt with. This will then be drawn up into a legally binding order.

If you would like to know more about the Form A or if you have any further queries relating to applying for a financial order, then please do not hesitate to contact a member of the family team.