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Form E and the first appointment

Marilyn Stowe’s comprehensive ebook guide to the every aspect of divorce and separation is now in its second edition. 

In this extract, she looks at the first appointment and the process of completing your Form E, the comprehensive financial statement which each party in a divorce must complete. It is a sworn statement to the family court.


This is a lengthy document, designed to give full and frank disclosure of their financial positions and future requirements. There will usually be a number of questions arising following the exchange of each party’s Form E, which takes place 35 days later. There will be other information to obtain, such as valuations of assets if the parties cannot agree what the assets are worth. However the court decides what questions and valuations are required. In practice many parties do agree but in more complicated cases, when both sides want pages of questions answered and a host of valuations, the court is the final arbiter.

Before the hearing the parties must exchange draft questionnaires. These contain queries about the other party’s Form E. Each party will also file a chronology with relevant events and dates, and a statement of issues setting out what they believe to be the relevant matters for the court to consider. These documents should give the judge an idea of where each party is coming from. A schedule of costs for both sides, giving details of legal fees to date, will also be taken into account by the judge.

The First Appointment is usually a fairly short hearing, which takes place in a private room rather than a traditional courtroom. Usually the judge sits at the head of a table, dressed in everyday clothes. The lawyers and clients sit either side. The parties, unless representing themselves, do not speak.

The judge will consider what, if any, additional information is required before meaningful negotiations towards a settlement can take place. The parties do need to attend this hearing and if they wish to be excused, will need permission of the judge. It makes sense for them to be present, to ensure that nothing is left out and that they understand how the case is going to proceed. There are pilots underway which might mean that ultimately in future, if the parties are agreed that a First Appointment is not necessary, because they have agreed how the case will progress, then with the permission of the Court, the appointment will be vacated and the agreed directions issued by a court together with a new date for the FDR hearing, discussed next.

But if the First Appointment does proceed, both sides will put their positions to the judge and explain what, in their opinion, is still deficient and needs to be produced. Valuations of assets, when there is a dispute about value, may be ordered, often with a single expert jointly appointed by the parties at joint cost. Sometimes the judge may allow each party to have their own expert, but it depends on the type of asset, the value in dispute and the complexity and cost of the valuation involved. Further disclosure may be ordered of the parties themselves if the disclosure to date is unclear or incomplete. The judge will fix a timetable for all the events to happen and for the next hearing: the Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment.

The process has begun in earnest.

During the period between these two hearings, a lot of work needs to be done. For example, there must be valuations, answers to questionnaires, consideration of answers, tax advice, consideration of omissions, perhaps additional court orders, examination of assets, and consideration given to how assets can be divided. The documentation must be shipshape. The court will also be told how much has been incurred in legal costs to date.


Divorce & Splitting Up: Advice from a Top Divorce Lawyer can be downloaded for just 99p here, with all profits going to the Children’s Society.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. The Devil's Advocate says:

    This is good from the material aspect within a financial settlement. Thank you.
    However taking your scenario with a eider but factual realism, when Parental Alienation spills from the children’s hostility into the psycho babble of the applicant, it affects the presumed sharing of family assets. The outcome would make an interesting Postgraduate behavioural PhD study and film.
    Basic word context: parental alienation, implacable hostility of female parent, indoctrinating psychological abuse, narcissistic personality disorder (covert), DSM5, malicious fraudulent behaviour, gross fabrication of material mendacious statements to the Police Authorities, compounding such mendacity on Court produced affidavit, collusion and perjury of applicant and public servants in covert court proceedings, perverting the Course of Justice.
    Wow reads like the plot of some fantasy screenplay. Unfortunately Marilyn you will have not come across such an action after 16 Court appearances, 12 attempts at mediation. In the annals of family proceedings this is a rarity and child abuse is still in action. Oh and l forgot to add, arrests for actual bodily harn against a minor and drug abuse by the applicant’s family too. No, it would make a good screenplay. Any Channel 4 Producers reading this blog? Leave a message! Jeremy Kyle producers too!
    It is just a shame that lawyers cannot think out of the box and act for the common good of the holistic best interest of children. When it comes to child and family protection there is not the legislation currently avaliable.

  2. Name Witheld says:

    My partner is going through a messy divorce. After trying to come to a settlement that the stb ex keeps moving goal posts on, we received her form A plus all the jargon for an FDR. She has lied all the way to this point. She lives in the uK and won the jurisdiction. We live in Africa. She has a top notch lawyer, we have none and struggle to represent ourselves. Problem is they want a first appointment, we dont even have a decree nisi, they sent us a copy of the form they had filled out on the 27.2.2015 leading us to believe there was a decree nisi. So when we decided to apply for the absolute we were told recently…there is no nisi. There is an 8 year old child with his mother as she will fight custody which my partner is not prepared to do.
    1. How can this go to a First appointment without a nisi.
    2. How can they force a Form E from us?
    3. How can they force him to attend all the way from Africa? (no U.K. funds)
    4. She has committed fraud against a credit card of his, where does that stand in the divorce?
    5 What happens if we choose to ignore this ll.
    there is only part % of the marital home on offer as that is all there is and all is share is, this home was acquired when my partner was with the wife before her? The home is actually owend by a company.?

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