Georgia McWilliam


DATE PUBLISHED: 07 Mar 2024 LAST UPDATED: 07 Mar 2024

Are Private Financial Dispute Resolution hearings the way forward?

Anyone involved in financial remedy proceedings arising from their divorce will be experiencing the vast Court delays that unfortunately have been exacerbated by the global pandemic. Over the last 18 months, Court hearings have also been cancelled at the last minute due to a lack of judicial availability.

In financial remedy proceedings, there are usually three types of Court hearings which take place, namely the first directions appointment (FDA), the financial dispute resolution hearing (FDR) and the final hearing. Interim hearings can also be listed throughout the course of the proceedings, depending on the complexity and nature of your case.

In brief, the FDA is the first hearing that takes place during the course of the proceedings. The aim of this hearing is to agree on next steps and to consider whether any experts are required such as an accountant to value a business or a surveyor to value the family home. Ultimately, the purpose of this hearing is to prepare the parties for the FDR.

The FDR is a key stage of the financial remedy proceedings. Both parties will attend Court to present their respective cases. A judge will then provide an indication on what they believe would be a fair settlement, based on the evidence presented. Following an indication, the parties usually aim to negotiate to reach a settlement. Most cases settle at this stage. However, in the event an agreement cannot be reached then the case will be listed for a final hearing where the Court will make a final decision on your behalf.

What is a private FDR hearing?

A private FDR follows the same ethos of an FDR hearing but takes place outside of the Court process. It involves the parties privately hiring a judge (often a barrister, solicitor or retired Judge) for a day to provide an indication as to the likely outcome of the financial case.

It is often a misconception that private FDRs are only appropriate for ‘big money’ cases. However, this is not the case. Private FDRs are very effective and can save a lot of money and time.

What are the benefits of a private FDR hearing?

  1. Speed and flexibility – Due to the hearing being private it means that you can book the hearing for a date that suits you. Whereas with a Court FDR you can potentially be waiting many months (sometimes up to six months) to get a hearing date which in addition could be set at an inconvenient time.
  2. Choice of Judge – You get to choose your judge and therefore you can be certain that they are a specialist in the area and will have read all of the papers in advance. Judges at a Court based FDR will not necessarily come from a family law background and are often extremely busy with little time to read all the papers.
  3. Control – Parties have more control over a private FDR enabling them to choose the judge, date and location. At a Court based FDR, parties have no say in these matters.
  4. Time – A private judge will devote the whole day to the FDR and will be available to be called upon for guidance as and when the parties require. A Court based judge is likely to have a busy case list and will have a limited amount of time to devote to each case.
  5. Comfort – Parties and their legal teams will have their own private rooms, which is not guaranteed at Court.

What are the disadvantages of a private FDR hearing?

  1. Failure to reach an agreement – If an agreement is not reached, the private judge cannot make any orders or directions. They cannot deal with case management decisions and nor can they make a final order at the conclusion of the hearing. This would therefore involve the parties having to attend a directions’ hearing at Court to then list the matter for a final hearing.
  2. Costs – there is an additional cost of the private FDR judge’s fees which the parties would not need to pay for a Court hearing. These costs are usually shared between the parties. Although there is an additional cost, it usually helps to motivate the parties to reach a settlement. Arguably, there’s a higher probability of achieving a settlement at a private FDR, which in turn avoids exorbitant legal fees and the chance of your case running to a final hearing many months after it started.

How can Ellis Jones help?

If you need assistance or advice in relation to the division of your matrimonial finances and/or the divorce process, please do not hesitate to get in contact with one of our expert Family Law Solicitors on 01202 636223 or by email to

How can we help?

When you submit this form an email will be sent to the relevant department who will contact you within 48 hours. If you require urgent advice please call 01202 525333.

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