Solicitor-Led Negotiation & Private FDRs
What is Solicitor-Led Negotiation?
Solicitor-led negotiation is the process by which a client appoints a solicitor to be the voice through which discussions and settlement negotiations take place. Many clients prefer this process option as it means they are not directly involved in the negotiations with their former partner or his/her solicitor, making the experience less confrontational as a result. Our experienced team of family lawyers ensures that the client’s instructions are taken at every step, enabling clients to retain control throughout the process. We provide clients with the full range of process options so they are able to make well-informed decisions about what is right for them.
Why choose Family Law in Partnership?
Our approach to solicitor–led negotiated settlements is grounded in the same underlying core values and beliefs that we exercise throughout our practice. Crucially, we listen to our clients and put their interests first whilst ensuring they stay in control of the process.
Our team is both collectively and individually recognised for conducting negotiations in a constructive and effective manner and we are widely respected amongst our peers for our commitment to non-confrontational negotiation.
Part of our approach involves constantly innovating and finding tailor-made solutions for our clients. This starts with the client choosing the right process option. When opting for solicitor-led negotiation, clients also have the additional opportunity of considering whether a private Financial Dispute Resolution hearing or Arbitration would work for them.
What is a Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing?
During the normal course of financial court proceedings, a Judge will list a date for an FDR hearing. An FDR hearing is less formal than other court hearings. The aim of the hearing is for the Judge to give an indication of what outcome might be ordered at a Final Hearing should the case proceed to that stage. The Judge is therefore seeking to encourage the parties to reach an agreement at the FDR hearing so as to avoid incurring the unnecessary costs, both financial and emotional, involved in proceeding to a Final Hearing. Further, the discussions that take place at this hearing are ‘privileged’ or private in light of the fact that these conversations are taking place in the spirit of negotiation and reveal each parties’ proposed settlement positions.
Crucially, the FDR Judge has no power to make a Financial Order at the hearing other than by consent – that’s to say, if the parties can reach an agreement, then the Judge can make an order but otherwise not. Many cases settle at the FDR hearing (or shortly thereafter) as a result of the Judge’s indication and the focussed negotiations that take place.
As with most court hearings, the parties may have to wait many months before they are allocated a date for an FDR hearing. This can unnecessarily and undesirably prolong the process, often leaving the parties in a state of limbo in the interim.
Private FDR hearings/ Early Neutral Evaluation
Given the success rates of FDR hearings at producing an agreement, the parties may opt for a private FDR hearing as an alternative to the court-based hearing, also known as Early Neutral Evaluation. As the name suggests, the FDR is conducted in private by an agreed Judge and at an agreed time. Essentially, this means an agreement can be reached sooner than if the parties had to wait for a court hearing.
There are many advantages to this process option including:
- Timing and location: The private FDR can be scheduled as soon as practically possible and at a location of the parties’ choice.
- Judge: The parties will agree which Judge (usually a part-time judge or arbitrator) to appoint. The ability to select the Judge is also crucial as the parties can choose a Judge who has the relevant expertise. An FDR Judge allocated by the court may preside mostly on children related matters, for example, which is undesirable where the case concerns complicated financial matters.
- Preparation: The elected Judge will have ample time to review the papers in the case and will therefore have a greater understanding of the issues before the parties come together. It is often the case that the Judge at a court-based FDR hearing will only have seen the papers on the morning of the hearing and may not have had time to read all the papers provided.
- Duration: Unlike a court-based FDR hearing, a private FDR is not time limited so the parties do not have the additional time-pressure they face at court.
- Issues: the private FDR is not solely limited to financial matters. There is also scope to address matters concerning children.
At Family Law in Partnership Ltd, we are constantly looking for new and innovative ways of helping couples reach agreements. We actively encourage parties to consider private FDR’s as an alternative to a court-based process due to the numerous advantages for the parties. Further, the process can often be cheaper and quicker for the parties (as compared to litigating the matter at court). We are happy to discuss whether a private FDR would be appropriate in your case whether your situation concerns financial matters on separation or matters surrounding children.
Please see our dedicated Arbitration page for more information on Arbitration as a process option.