This scheme is to provide alternative resolution for divorce cases with application for ancillary relief.
Not applied for Applications for nominal maintenance and cases where the parties have reached agreement on ancillary relief
First Appointment Date
Upon the filing of a notice of intention to proceed with an Application for ancillary relief made in the Petition, Answer or in a Joint Application; or a subsequent Application for ancillary relief to court, the court shall allocate a date for the First Appointment by notice (Notice of First Appointment), with 15 minutes allocated in the first instance, no less than 10 weeks and no later than 14 weeks after the date of the filing of the said pleadings or notices.
Filing of Financial Statement
Not less than 28 days before the date of the First Appointment the Applicant and the Respondent shall each file with the Court and simultaneously exchange with each other a Financial Statement in Form E.
In the event that only one party shall be in a position to file the Financial Statement on the due date then that party may do so in a sealed envelope to which the other party shall not have access until he or she is in a position to file and exchange his or her Financial Statement.
Exchange of Documents and Bundle
Following the filing of the Application for ancillary relief but prior to the First Appointment no discovery of documents shall be sought or given save:
a. insofar as documents have been annexed to the Financial Statement (Form E); or
b. in accordance with below paragraph.
Subject to below paragraph, not later than 14 days before the hearing of the First Appointment each party shall deliver to court and serve by simultaneous exchange on the other party in an indexed and paginated bundle:
a. A list of the orders and directions sought;
b. A questionnaire and/or request for particulars setting out the further information sought of the other party;
c. A schedule setting out the documents sought of the other party;
d. A concise statement of the apparent issues between the parties together with a brief chronology relating to those issues; and
e. A confirmation of service of the notice of the First Appointment.
At any time after the making of an application for ancillary relief and not later than 21 days before the hearing of the First Appointment, the Applicant may file at Court and serve on the Respondent a notice of his/her intention to seek leave of the Court at the First Appointment to dispense with the delivery of the paginated bundle referred to in Paragraph 4 above on the ground that the claim(s) is insubstantial and uncomplicated and does not thereby justify the costs involved, in which case the parties may withhold delivery the bundle unless otherwise directed by the Court at the First Appointment.
The First Appointment
At the First Appointment the Judge, with the objective of defining the issues and saving costs, shall:
i. determine the extent to which each such questionnaire and/or request for particulars shall be answered, and such documents produced, and shall give directions as to the production of future and up-dating documentation including return of the bundle to the parties for updating;
ii. give directions as to valuations of assets (including, where practicable, the joint instruction of independent experts) and the obtaining and exchanging of experts’ evidence (including directions as to the meeting of experts);
iii. give directions as to any evidence sought to be adduced by each party including the filing of affirmations/affidavits and the attendance of witnesses at the hearing of the Application and as to any chronologies or schedules to be filed by each party;
iv. give directions as to service of all relevant persons to be served under S.6A(5) and S.17 Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Ordinance and the issue and service of Form F;
v. give directions for the Children’s Appointment to be heard then and there at the same time as the First Appointment or to fix a further hearing for the Children’s Appointment, and to give such directions as may be necessary under Children Dispute Resolution (‘CDR’) in relation to the Children’s Appointment;
vi. direct that the case be referred to a Financial Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) hearing, unless, exceptionally, he decides such referral is not appropriate;
vii. where he decides that a referral to a FDR is not appropriate, direct, and in each case (where applicable) fix a date forthwith:
(1) that the case be fixed for a further directions hearing;
(2) that a hearing be fixed for an interim order;
(3) that the case be fixed for final hearing (he determining, in accordance with the provisions of Rule 80 Matrimonial Causes Rules, the level of Court before which it should be heard);
(4) that the case be adjourned for out of court mediation, private negotiation, or, exceptionally, sine die;
viii. consider making an order as to the costs of the hearing having regard to all the circumstances including, the extent to which each party has adhered to the Rules;
ix. direct the parties to consider mediation at any time.
The Judge may :
i. in a case of urgency, make an interim order;
ii. unless there is a Custody Dispute Resolution fixed at the same time as the First Appointment, with the consent of both parties, treat the First Appointment, or part of it, as a FDR hearing, in which event, if the FDR is unsuccessful, the Judge shall have no further involvement with the application other than to give further directions and/or conduct any further FDR hearing.
Following the First Appointment no party shall be entitled to seek further discovery of documents save pursuant to directions given by the Judge in the first Appointment or with the leave of the court.
The FDR hearing
a. The FDR hearing shall be by Notice will be served by the Applicant on all parties concerned;
b. The judge conducting the FDR hearing shall have no further involvement with the Application, other than to conduct any further FDR hearing;
c. Evidence of anything said or of any admission made in the course of the hearing shall not be admissible in evidence in a court, save upon the trial of a person for an offence committed at the hearing;
d. No offer or proposal made by a party, whether orally or in writing, nor any response to any such offer or proposal, may be excluded from consideration at the FDR hearing by virtue of a claim of privilege;
e. Not later than 7 days before the FDR hearing the applicant shall apprise the Court of details of all such offers, proposals and responses thereto by delivering an indexed and paginated FDR bundle containing the relevant documents, and at the conclusion of the hearing the FDR bundle shall be returned to the Applicant or Respondent as appropriate and not retained on the Court file;
f. Parties attending the FDR hearing shall use their best endeavours to reach agreement on relevant matters in issue between them;
g. The FDR hearing may be adjourned from time to time, and at the conclusion thereof the Court may make such consent order as may be appropriate, but otherwise must give directions for the future course of the proceedings, including, where appropriate, the filing of evidence and fixing a final hearing date.
Both parties shall personally attend every hearing unless the court otherwise orders.
No later than 4 p.m. on the last working day prior to each court hearing each party shall exchange with each other and deliver to the court a written estimate of the solicitor and own client costs hitherto incurred on his behalf.
Statement of Open Proposals
a. Unless otherwise directed by the Court, not less than 21 days before the date fixed for the final hearing of an Application for ancillary relief, the Applicant shall file with the Court and serve on the other party to the Application a concise statement setting out the nature and amount of the orders which he or she proposes to invite the Court to make;
b. Not more than 7 days after service of a statement under Paragraph 11(a) above the Respondent to the Application shall file with the Court and serve on the applicant a concise statement in answer setting out the nature and amount of the orders which he or she proposes to invite the Court to make;
c. No privilege shall attach or be capable of attaching to either of the statements referred to in above paragraphs.