The Financial Remedies Court Pilot launched in 2018 with the aim of improving both the application of procedural justice and the delivery of substantive justice. The President of the Family Division has summarised the pilot as ‘a ticketing and allocation regime designed to ensure that all Financial Remedy cases are case managed and heard by a suitably experienced judge’.
The Financial Remedies Court has continued to expand and, on 5 February 2021, Mostyn J and HHJ Hess produced further guidance which confirmed that Financial Remedies Courts (FRCs) are now up and running in 18 zones and in all parts of England and Wales. Importantly, the President of the Family Division has confirmed that FRCs should no longer be regarded as pilot schemes, but instead as an established and permanent part of the Family Court.
The note produced by Mostyn J and HHJ Hess contains the following further guidance:
- New procedures for issuing Forms A – with effect from 15 February 2021, applications for Financial Remedies should be issued in the hub court of one of the FRC zones (as opposed to a Regional Divorce Centre). It is not compulsory to issue an application in the zone hub that is local to the applicant, therefore in theory they may issue their application in the zone that they prefer. However, if they issue their application in a non-local zone then there is a risk that the court may transfer the case to be heard elsewhere, most likely in a local zone.
- Digital applications – The Digital Consent Order scheme is now fully up and running, with around 2,000 consent orders currently being approved per month with a typical turnaround of about two weeks. An equivalent scheme for contested cases, the ‘Digital Contested Cases’ scheme, will be rolled out to all FRC zones in coming months. Under this new scheme, Forms A are issued online and all court documents are filed by uploaded to the portal, to which all legitimate participants will have access. It is hoped that this will become the routine method of filing documents in Financial Remedies cases.
- Allocation – one of the new features of the FRCs is the facility for cases to be allocated to an appropriate judicial level, and practitioners are encouraged to get used to completing the allocation questionnaire when issuing new cases. Where a case is allocated without a hearing (which it almost invariably will be) then a party may request that the court reconsiders the decision at a hearing, although good reason will be required to change an allocation.
The hub courts are: Central Family Court, Birmingham, Nottingham, Newport, Swansea, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, Leeds, Medway, Manchester, Peterborough, Oxford, Bristol, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Wrexham & Preston.
An ‘organogram’ has also been published to illustrate the judicial structure of each Financial Remedies Court and this can be found at https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/financial-remedy-court-organogram.