Financial matters in relation to Family law issues – can settlements still take place? Are settlement agreements enforceable in this current climate?

Covid-19 is having an unprecedented impact on individual’s lives in this country.

Whilst the pandemic is on-going, all aspects of society are affected.

But what does coronavirus mean for your divorce and, specifically, the financial aspect of your divorce; can your case be progressed to a settlement?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is somewhat more nuanced.

Financial cases require negotiation between the parties and, where that falls down, intervention. This intervention often takes the form of court intervention through Financial Remedy proceedings but can also take place through mediation or arbitration.

The court system is still running at this time, but it is running differently to normal. You may have seen on the news that over half of the courts have been closed during the coronavirus outbreak?

How divorce hearings are being conducted in the light of COVID-19/Coronavirus

If you have a hearing coming up, it is very likely that, if it goes ahead, this hearing will be heard remotely, either by telephone or through video-conferencing. Video conferencing does not require any specialist hardware or any specialist training – a decent, secure Wi-Fi connection and a computer with a webcam, or a smartphone, will suffice.

Private Financial Dispute Resolution (PFDR) and divorce law

Some courts are encouraging parties to utilise Private Financial Dispute Resolution (PFDR); broadly, this is where a barrister will sit as a judge and provide an indication in the same way that a judge would at a ‘normal’ FDR. This could be beneficial for a number of reasons.

Benefits of Private Financial Dispute Resolution

PFDRs can be arranged at fairly short notice, depending on the availability of the parties involved. Barristers will also likely have more flexibility than a District Judge; for example, a PFDR could take place over a weekend, given the new working commitments we are all working to. If a PFDR doesn’t yield a result, then the parties’ representatives can notify the court and the FDR can be vacated, proceeding straight to a Final Hearing. This also means that the judge who heard the case originally may then take it through to Final Hearing; ordinarily, the judge at an FDR and a Final Hearing cannot be the same judge, but if a PFDR is used rather than an FDR, this requirement falls by the way side.

Benefits of Arbitration

Arbitration is also a potential way forward. In these unprecedented times, some barristers’ chambers that we work with are offering flexible pricing; a “simple” issue has a significantly lower price point than one which is more complex and may require more time to resolve.

Your case can still be settled in the on-going crisis.

What are Barder events?

One final item to consider is what is known as a “Barder event”. Barder events are extremely rare and are only considered where a financial case has been brought to conclusion. A Barder event is where an event has occurred since the making of the order that alter the fundamental premise of the order, such as the sudden death of a party.

What BLM thinks about the impact on financial proceedings and COVID-19 /Coronavirus…

The big picture is that financial proceedings will not come to a grinding halt as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. There are logistical challenges that need to be overcome but, with a Wi-Fi connection and a means of communication, coronavirus will not indefinitely suspend your proceedings.