What Are The Differences Between A Court Led and Private FDR?

A divorcing couple has a choice as to how they want to approach reaching a financial settlement in their divorce. Sometimes, however, court proceedings are necessary. Unfortunately, the court system has a bad reputation of being expensive and lengthy. Once in the court process, there can be quite a wait between the court hearings.

For those clients who can afford it, many lawyers are now suggesting their client consider paying for a private FDR hearing(aka Financial Dispute Resolution) rather than waiting for the court led FDR hearing.

But what are the differences between a private FDR and the court led FDR? Here are my thoughts on it….

The Judge

Court Led – In a court led FDR, the couple have no control over what judge is appointed to oversee their hearing. They will not know who has been allocated their case until perhaps the day of the hearing itself. The judge will also have a list of cases he/she must hear that same day and the couple have no control over when they will be seen. Whilst their hearing may be listed for 10am, 4/5 other cases may also be listed at this time and so they must simply wait their turn until the judge is free to see them. This can involve a lot of hanging around in the court building as it will be unknown how long each case will take with the judge.

Private FDR – A big advantage of a private led FDR, is that the couple get to choose their own judge for the FDR. This could be a barrister or solicitor. The private judge is booked for the whole day and so the couple have their undivided attention. There is no waiting around whilst other cases are being heard and they can ask to see the judge as many times as they want during the day, knowing the judge will be available to see them straight away.

The Date of the Hearing

Court Led – The court listing office set the date for the hearing. Whilst the legal team of each client may have been able to provide a list of “dates to avoid”, this doesn’t provide any guarantee as to when the actually hearing will be listed. The couple may have to wait quite some time for an FDR hearing to be listed in the court timetable which can be frustrating.

Private FDR – The couple (and their legal teams) get to choose what date they want the hearing to be held and can book the private FDR judge for that date. Getting to choose their own date will most probably mean the FDR hearing is held much quicker than it would be in the court led timetable, avoiding delay in moving the case forward.

The Venue

Court Led – The hearing will be held at the court where the financial court proceedings are being held. They are often busy buildings, with few facilities for refreshments and often few/already full meetings rooms to provide privacy for discussions with your legal team. The couple may end up being in the court building all day and the noise, busyness and lack of refreshments available can be uncomfortable.

Private FDR – The venue for the FDR is decided between the couple and their legal teams and is usually in the offices of the judge booked for the hearing. This provides a much more comfortable environment for what can be a long and tiring day. There will be much better facilities with refreshments provided and a calm and quiet private room for discussions to take place for each client and their legal team. This provides a much more comfortable environment, putting the couple in a much better position to keep a clear head and properly engage in the discussions.

The Cost

Court Led – The cost here involves the charges of the barrister and solicitor/s attending for each of the couple. There is no charge for using the court itself or for the judge. The cost of running the court is met by the taxpayer!

Private FDR – There is an important (and not insignificant) additional cost for a private FDR. The couple are required to pay for the private judge they have chosen. This person is usually an experienced divorce lawyer and the cost can involve several thousands. But for those who can afford it, this is seen as worth it for the benefits a private FDR can provide.


For my tips on how to prepare for your FDR hearing(whether it is to be in court or a private one), please click on the following link – 

10 Steps To Help You Prepare For Your FDR

To find out how I can help you through your divorce, get in touch here – Contact Rhiannon


If you have found the tips in this blog useful then you will find lots more in my ebook “Tips for Coping with Divorce” which you can download here: free ebook.

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