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Husband can’t use documents from dispute resolution meeting

A divorcing husband has been told he can’t use documents relating to a financial dispute resolution (FDR) hearing as part of his defence in legal proceedings against him.

The issue arose after divorce proceedings between the husband and his wife, who had made an application for financial relief.

In 2018 a judge made an order providing for the instruction of a firm to value the husband’s company and that he was to be responsible for paying the fees of £75,000.

The valuation was produced, and an FDR hearing took place. Six months later a clean break order was made requiring that the husband would provide security for a lump sum payment and periodical payments until payment of the lump sum.

In 2019, the valuers issued a claim against him for payment of its unpaid fee. His company was by then insolvent.

He filed a defence and counterclaim denying liability and alleging that valuers had been negligent in their valuation. He asserted that he had settled his claim with his wife on the basis of that valuation so he counterclaimed the difference between the sum he was obliged to pay under the order and the amount he would have had to pay if the company had been assessed correctly.

The judge refused the husband’s application for a copy of the transcript of the FDR on the basis that, non-disclosure of the contents of FDR appointments was vital to the settlement of disputes between parties.

The husband issued an application to vary the lump sum and periodical payments order which was to be heard separately.

He subsequently wished to amend his defence pleadings to argue that no reliance had been placed on the valuer’s report during the negotiations so that payment of their fees was a wasted expenditure.

He submitted that he required the disclosure of eight classes of documents, six relating to the FDR and two relating to events following the FDR, to enable him to properly defend the civil proceedings.

The court refused the applications. The judge said he had difficulty understanding the legal basis of the husband’s draft amended pleading. Just because a party who had commissioned work chose after delivery not to use it did not mean he did not have to pay for it.

In addition, it was fundamental that the FDR was a confidential process. The law was clear. It operated as an absolute bar to any attempt by the husband to make use of anything said or done at the FDR in support of his defence and counterclaim in the civil proceedings.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.