My First Courtroom Experience

By Ramneek Kaur LLB

The experience of attending a Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing was truly an honour. It was my first ever court hearing; something that I will remember for the rest of my career and life. It allowed me to gain insight on the structure and the process of a court hearing, especially how an FDR hearing takes place. I had always seen the process written in books, but to finally visibly attend one and be a part of one was beyond my expectations.

The preparations for the hearing was also very informative and allowed me to understand and work through the steps taken to gather all the documents;  organise them and create a court bundle for the hearing. I was able to gain a variety of skills to further my knowledge of law. I saw the case steps first-hand as a result of being part of the case from the beginning by preparing the documents, and to the end by being a part of the hearing. I managed to talk to the clients and see how they felt at the time, which made me feel connected to my job role and the case itself. I feel more comfortable after attending the hearing, than I was when walking in. The nervousness that I had was replaced by the satisfaction of being a part of a client’s hearing.

The background of the case:

The case involved a husband (applicant) and wife (respondent) who are going through a divorce, who live in the same house and sleep in the same bed. It was the first case the Judge had ever come across where both parties had the same McKenzie Friend.

Going into the court hearing, the husband proposed to gain half of the equity of the family home (£80,000), keep full equity of the property in Mexico and gain the wife’s pensions. However, the wife proposed to pay the husband a lump sum of £50,000 from the equity in the family home, have no equity in the property in Mexico and half of her pensions. Therefore, the only thing they agreed on going into the case was half of the wife’s pensions and a clean break concerning income, in life and death.

Throughout the case the Judge gave guidance and indication on what the court looks at when deciding cases similar to this one. He explained the two principles the court look at for the distribution of assets; needs and sharing.

The first principle of needs is the ideas that once divorced there are certain needs for starting a new life for each party.

The second principle of sharing is the idea of one measure of fairness of wealth during marriage should be shared equally.

The Judge then raised a question of how can the parties can get the husband a property without ruining the wife’s finances? To answer this, the parties would need to work out how much the husband needs to buy a house and if the wife can pay the equity by remortgaging the property. The Judge advised that going to trial means that the case is in the hands of another person and not in control of the parties. Therefore, he allowed them to go into the consultation room and negotiate to reach a settlement.

In the negotiation room:

The position of both parties changed. The husband proposed that he gets half of the equity in the family home (£80,000) as a lump sum and he would not ask for any of the wife’s pensions. However if not agreed he stated he would go to trial. The wife found this unfair and offered a maximum of a lump sum of £45,000 from the equity in the family home, £10,000 from one of the pensions to equal £55,000 altogether and that he finds a reasonable and affordable property to buy, such as a shared ownership property. She proposed that if this was not agreed upon, she would want a mortgage principle letter stating what his actual borrowing capacity would be and the figure to be decided reflecting this. As a result, they both were clashing and a settlement was not reached.

Going back to the courtroom:

The judge asked the parties if they had reached an agreement and they said no.

The judge then made directions for the court order.

Next steps to be taken:

Unfortunately, due to the case not settling at this hearing, it will be going to the final hearing, which is also known as the trial.

After this experience, I most certainly wish to attend more court hearings and get further experience on the different types of cases. As well as this, I feel more confident to prepare trial bundles for the clients as I have more knowledge of this through this case and the casework surrounding it. I look forward to attending and being part of further court cases and hearings in my career.

Written by Ramneek Kaur, Legal Assistant at Brady Harvey Legal. She holds an LLB Degree from University of Essex.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s