Mostyn J and HHJ Hess released an Efficient Conduct Statement for the Financial Remedies Court, signalling changes to the way that cases should be dealt with in the Financial Remedies Court. These include:
Allocating cases to a single Judge who will either do every hearing other than the financial dispute resolution (FDR) hearing, or else each hearing up to & including FDR, before the case is allocated to a different judge.
Provision that an agreed estate agent's valuation of any former matrimonial home (FMH), property particulars & a joint mortgage capacity report is to be provided prior to the First Appointment
Creation of a joint new case summary template & new combined schedule of assets template, which are to be used in financial remedy cases;
Provision that, in the event that the parties undergo a private FDR, they will have to prepare a summary for the allocated Judge, not telling them about the offers, but confirming that the private FDR took place, how long was spent & confirming that offers were made & an indication given;
Provision that emails sent after 6pm should not be expected to be responded to before 8.30am the next morning & emails sent between those times will be strongly discouraged (unless the parties are close to settlement)
Notice that evidence in chief won't usually be permitted at a final hearing
Kate Clark says: The Efficient Conduct Statement brings in fundamental changes to the workings of the Financial Remedy Court (below High Court level) and how cases are prepared for Court. The purpose of the changes are to enhance efficiency in financial remedy cases, to ensure that such cases are allotted an appropriate share of the court's resources, and to improve access to justice for all litigants.
A more collaborative approach, including the requirement to serve agreed composite schedules prior to the First Appointment, is clearly being encouraged, with an emphasis on attempting to narrow the issues at an early stage and avoid unnecessary delay. This is likely to mean more work in the early stages, but if that results in swifter settlements being reached, it can only be a positive step.
There are clear advantages to the same judge be allocated to every hearing (where possible and appropriate), and the timetable and conduct of Final Hearings have also been more tightly specified, with advocates being at risk of costs sanctions for failure to comply.
The Statement has also attempted to consider the wellbeing of advocates, in terms of the timing of hearings and email correspondence with litigants, although clearly there will always be exceptions to this, and so the extent to which this will have an impact remains to be seen.