Ashley can be a private FDR judge to enable parties to secure an early resolution to their financial remedy claims upon divorce which can then be presented in the form of a consent order for the Court’s endorsement – thus avoiding lengthy and costly disputed proceedings. A fixed fee of £2,700 plus VAT applies subject to conditions, please see below.
If you would like to discuss and/or make the arrangements for doing so please contact Ashley or his clerk by email or telephone on 0151 559 3285.
A Private FDR (or Early Evaluation Hearing)
a) The Court FDR
A Financial Dispute Resolution(‘FDR’) hearing is at the core of the present divorce financial remedy process operated by the Family Court and is the point at which the parties along with their legal teams can with the assistance of the Judge seek to reach a Court approved settlement – thus avoiding the delay and continuing costs engaged by listing the matter for a contested hearing. The Judge on the day considers skeleton documentation relating to the parties’ finances and hears brief submissions from their advocates or themselves if not represented and then that Judge states what outcome he or she would consider to be reasonable.
b) The Disadvantages of the Court FDR
The FDR hearing has proved to be successful in resolving the many such financial remedy disputes before the Court; however:
- the costs of the parties at the Court FDR hearing (outside London) can frequently be for even the ‘run of the mill’ case in excess of £10,000 to £15,000 and some are already in excess £25,000 to £50,000 or more by this stage;
- the listing time for the Court FDR hearing has been progressively getting longer and longer and by reason of the post Covid case backlog will be now be significantly further delayed into 2022 or beyond;
- the parties cannot choose their Judge within the Court process and their case will invariably be listed for 1 hour within a daily list involving several other FDRs which means that the Court has limited time resources in fully assessing the details and issues of the individual case;
c) The Private FDR
A Private FDR (or Early Evaluation hearing) is a hearing which takes place outside the Court process before a specialised divorce practitioner or retired Judge of the parties’ choosing and at a venue and time agreed upon by the parties in advance. The parties prepare for the Private FDR hearing in exactly the same way they would do for a Court FDR hearing – although it is likely the process by agreement will be more streamlined and focused than would otherwise be the case before the Court. The only difference is that the parties will be responsible for meeting the hearing fee in advance of the specialist Judge appointed.
In the event that the parties reach a settlement at a Private FDR, then thereafter upon the parties’ joint application the Court will make an order by consent reflecting the terms reached. If the Private FDR is unsuccessful, then the parties will still be able to continue the Court process and have a final contested hearing listed in the standard way.
A Private FDR (or Early Evaluation hearing) having previously been encouraged by the retiring President of the Family Court and Rules introduced to ensure, where the parties wish there to be such an event, that the Court process will, if already commenced, make agreed directions for the parties to take part in the same – is now to be actively encouraged by the Court at each hearing attended by the parties and the parties requested to explain the reason for not pursuing an alternative to the Court process.
d) The Advantages of the Private FDR
The advantages are that the Private FDR:-
- can take place before formal divorce financial remedy proceedings are even started;
- will be arranged at a time and place to suit the parties and their legal advisors;
- will take place far sooner than it would be under the present backlogged Court system with the obvious saving of costs to both parties;
- will be adjudicated over by a specialist of the parties’ choosing who will act entirely independently in accordance with his or her professional standards;
- papers will have been read in advance by the specialist appointed who will be able to devote the whole period to the hearing and the parties if required in an effort to reach settlement;
- hearing will be as informal as desired by the parties;
- hearing fee of the specialist judge appointed is likely to represent a considerable saving to the parties’ costs overall compared to the level of legal fees they would incur had they awaited a Court FDR hearing.
- The Courts actively encourage such alternative resolution and will on a short notice listing endorse the agreement reached following a Private FDR upon Consent application being made on behalf of the parties.
e) The Advantages of a Private FDR by Ashley Murray
The advantages of a Private FDR hearing conducted by Ashley Murray are that :-
a) he was the first barrister on the Northern Circuit over 25 years ago to accept instructions only in divorce financial remedy work and, thereby, has experience of exclusively dealing with such work longer than any current sitting judge, Queens counsel or junior counsel on the Northern Circuit;
b) he has experience of sitting as a Recorder for over 27 years and in 2012 he was uniquely authorised by Peter Jackson J (as he then was) to adjudicate within the Family Court process on divorce financial remedy hearings and appeals from district judges;
c) he has over the last two decades been ranked No 1* junior counsel by the national legal directories for his divorce financial remedy practice and in 2020 was described by Legal 500 as “Godfather of the Northern Circuit for matrimonial finance”;
d) he was the original protagonist and campaigner for the ‘Money Judge’ system operated on the Northern Circuit which he helped instigate in liaison with Ryder LJ and which has now been incorporated into the new Financial Remedy Court;
e) he is co-author of a standard legal textbook dealing with prenuptial agreements;
f) he has lectured within the UK and Australia upon divorce financial remedy and pre and post marital agreement subjects;
g) he has had numerous articles published in the Family Law Journal and elsewhere on financial remedy issues over the last 22 years;
h) he provides regular Updating materials to solicitors and local judges on legal cases and developments.
f) The basis of the Fixed Fee
The level of the reduced period fixed fee of £2,700 plus vat above (subject to the terms of the Private FDR Remote Hearing Agreement attached below) : –
- the net (including after potential disposal costs of sale and any secured charges) combined Non Pension and Pension assets value of the parties not exceeding £4m and the agreement of Ashley Murray Chambers that this is the position;
- the Private FDR hearing at the parties’ choice taking place and concluding between 10 am and 4.30pm on the date agreed for the hearing. In the event that the parties shall at the Private FDR hearing request Ashley Murray to extend the hearing further there will be an additional fee per each hour (or part thereof) of £250 plus vat payable by the parties’ solicitors to Ashley Murray Limited within 7 days of the Private FDR hearing;
- the FDR hearing during the aftermath of the Covid -19 pandemic taking place until further notice by way of Remote Hearing being arranged by the parties’ legal representatives and conducted by Microsoft Teams or such other communications platform agreed in writing by the parties and their legal representatives and Ashley Murray no later than 14 days before the date of the Private FDR hearing.
- the fixed fee being received and paid by the parties to Ashley Murray Ltd no later than 7 days before the date booked with Ashley Murray Chambers for the Private FDR hearing;
- in the event of the fixed fee not being received and paid as above and/or the parties having not signed a Private FDR hearing Agreement as below, the matter being immediately vacated from Ashley Murray’s diary and he being under no further obligation to undertake a Private FDR hearing between the parties;
- in the event of Ashley Murray reasonably determining that he is unable to proceed or continue with the Private FDR hearing, including where the same is caused by a loss of the communications platform for whatever reason or either party’s or their legal representatives’ non attendance or either parties’ failure to comply with the FDR preparation and procedure under the FPR 2010 or the omission of either party or their legal representatives to comply with the conditions set out herein in the Private FDR Remote Hearing Agreement (see attached below), Ashley Murray’s paid fee will be non returnable;
- in the event that Ashley Murray is for whatever other reason, including by reason of his or his family’s personal illness, reasonably unable or prevented from conducting the Private FDR hearing, his and Ashley Murray Limited’s only liability whatsoever to the parties and their legal advisors shall be the return of the fee paid as above;
- the delivery by the parties to Ashley Murray by not less than 3 working days before the Private FDR hearing of a skeleton FDR bundle comprising ONLY (subject to Ashley Murray’s prior written agreement to additional documentation and/or a bundle in excess of 350 pages) of:-
i) the bare FDRs, if already filed,
ii) any questionnaires and replies thereto,
iii) an agreed schedule of up to date net assets and net incomes with any reason for disagreement and alternative figures arising thereby endorsed briefly thereon;
iv) an agreed statement of resolved issues and outstanding issues;
v) an agreed neutral chronology;
vi) copies of any relevant valuations;
vii) copies of any SJE reports
viii) copies of any relevant up to date company accounts and/or trust documents
ix) copies of any without prejudice offers to settle made by either party;
- the delivery by the parties to Ashley Murray by not less than 3 working days before the Private FDR hearing of the written submissions (not exceeding 10 pages A 4 Roman 12 spacing 1.5) of the advocates presenting the parties cases at the hearing inclusive of a “net effect” summary
- The parties entering into a Private FDR hearing Agreement in writing with Ashley Murray Limited upon the date of booking with Ashley Murray Chambers for the Private FDR hearing and in any event no later than 14 days before the Private FDR hearing;
g) Signed Agreement
The parties and their legal representatives shall each sign a Private FDR Agreement in writing with Ashley Murray Limited for the Private FDR hearing and in any event no later than 14 days before the Private FDR hearing.