Private Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) for Divorce

Lisa Pepper
husband signing decree of divorce

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Private FDR helps divorcing couples reach a financial settlement

Our specialist divorce lawyers are keen to ensure our divorcing clients achieve cost-effective outcomes as quickly as possible, with minimal conflict, enabling them to get on with their lives.  One of the ways we help our clients is through private financial dispute resolution (FDR).

The divorce team at Osbornes are highly experienced in helping clients resolve matters on divorce in non-court settings, and we have been seeing a rise in private FDR. 

What is a divorce financial dispute resolution (FDR) hearing?

A Divorce Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing takes place in a family court as part of divorce proceedings, specifically related to the financial settlement agreement. It is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) designed to help divorcing couples resolve their financial issues without resorting to trial.

During an FDR hearing, a neutral third-party, usually a family law judge, reviews the disputed financial issues between the divorcing parties. These include the division of the family home, maintenance payments and child support. The judge listens to arguments from both parties, considers the evidence and then provides recommendations or suggestions to facilitate resolution. The judge does not make a legally binding decision but facilitates the negotiation so that both parties can agree to a settlement. If an agreement cannot be reached during the FDR hearing, the case may proceed to trial, where a judge will make a final decision.

FDR hearings are often considered a less formal, less adversarial, and more cost-effective approach to resolving financial disputes in divorce cases compared to going to trial. They offer an opportunity for the parties to voice their concerns and work towards a mutually acceptable resolution with the guidance of a neutral third party.

What is private FDR?

Traditionally, a divorce financial settlement is dealt with either by mutual agreement between the parties or by application to the family court. 

The court process includes disclosure of the parties’ respective financial positions, and after a first hearing, dealing with what reports etc. are required, or former disclosures. This is then followed by an FDR hearing which focuses on trying to achieve a settlement. If that fails, a final hearing will follow and the judge will determine the final outcome.

A private FDR with an independent and impartial FDR judge is a simple and voluntary alternative to this.  

As a former president of the Family Division succinctly described it: 

“The parties pay for a financial remedy specialist to act as a private FDR judge. That person may be a solicitor, barrister or retired judge… The private FDR takes place at a time convenient to the parties, usually in solicitors’ offices or barristers’ chambers, and a full day is normally set aside to maximise the prospects of settlement. It takes the place of the in-court FDR.”

So, whether or not you’re already going down the court process, you have the option of agreeing to a private FDR hearing. It is confidential and without prejudice, and enables discussions and negotiations to take place freely with the judge’s assistance.

  • If a settlement is reached (and usually, it is), this will be drawn up in the form of a court order and submitted to the court for approval. 
  • Where an agreement cannot be reached, it will become necessary for a date for a final hearing to be set – though the parties can still work towards trying to resolve the issues ahead of it.

However, we make it clear to our clients that there is the potential for a lengthy delay before there is a court final hearing, given the lengthy backlog currently affecting the family courts, and therefore we, as a team with the clients, take a constructive approach to try, as far as possible, to avoid a court final hearing.

How much does private FDR cost?

Although there is a cost involved – mainly in respect of the private FDR judge’s fees, which are normally split between the parties – our clients find that the advantages of a private FDR far outweigh this, and the costs are not, overall, more expensive because the case is concluded far earlier than in the court process. 

What are the benefits of private FDR?

A private FDR offers clients a number of benefits, including:

  1. The private FDR judge will have your full attention. They will have the time to prepare properly and to set aside a day (or more) to hear the case without the pressures of the normal court timetable with competing cases.
  2. There is unlikely to be a delay in having the matter dealt with by way of private FDR. This in turn helps the parties focus on preparing for the FDR, narrowing down the issues to be resolved. Ahead of the FDR, each party’s lawyers will prepare and exchange a statement setting out their position on the issues. 
  3. The process of private FDRs is more flexible, less adversarial and less formal, making it more likely a settlement can be reached.
  4. There is a greater chance of reaching a settlement in a private FDR than in a court-based FDR. This can mean the difference between concluding the case in a matter of weeks – or months or even years if the case is litigated.

How should you prepare for private FDR?

It’s important to remember that preparation is key to a successful FDR hearing. Being organised, informed, and open to negotiation can help you navigate the process effectively and increase the likelihood of reaching a mutually satisfactory resolution. Our specialist family lawyers can advise you on the best way to prepare including:

  1. We can familiarise you with the FDR process, including the purpose, format, and potential outcomes of the hearing. As well as explain the role of the judge.
  2. Gather all relevant financial documents, including financial statements, tax returns, bank statements, property valuations, and any other relevant financial records.
  3. Clarify your financial goals and priorities for the hearing. Consider what outcomes are most important to you and what you are willing to negotiate on. Be prepared to articulate your position clearly and concisely during the hearing.
  4. Be prepared to engage in constructive negotiation during the FDR hearing and be open to settlement options and consider potential compromises. Think about potential solutions and alternatives that could be acceptable to you.
  5. Anticipate potential questions from the other party and be prepared to respond to them. Practice your responses and be ready to present your case persuasively during the hearing.
  6. Maintain a professional and respectful demeanour during the FDR hearing. Avoid engaging in confrontational or hostile behaviour, as this can hinder the negotiation process. Focus on resolving issues in a cooperative and constructive manner.

For specialist advice on how a private FDR can help you, call our leading divorce lawyer Lisa Pepper or complete an online enquiry form below.

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    • "Osbornes have been a sound firm forever. They have phenomenal work."

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    • "They provide excellent advice and service to clients."

      CHAMBERS 2023

    • "Osbornes Law have a very broad family practice which does all areas of family law at a high level. They have an excellent practice; they are top quality across the board."

      CHAMBERS UK 2023

    • "She has impressed me as someone who fights my corner but also understands the importance of resolving issues without unnecessary escalation. She is calm and reassuring."

    • "Her mediation practice is exceptional; she is also a great solicitor and has a breadth of skill which is really useful."

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    • Lisa Pepper is particularly recognised for her role as a mediator in complex cross-border disputes. Her practice also includes handling prenuptial agreements and issues arising from the dissolution of civil partnerships.

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