After both sides have exchanged statements of financial information (Form E), the rules provide for each side to do a questionnaire for the other side. This is set out in Family Procedure Rule 9.14(5). At the first directions appointment the court will determine which questions must be answered: rule 9.15(2).
How should a party go about deciding which questions to ask? The rules say that your questions are supposed to relate to the statement of issues which is supplied for the first appointment. The reality however is that many courts do not look at questionnaires in that way.
The best guiding principle is to think about what the court is going to have to decide: how to divide up property, income and pensions. If your question does not help the court in relation to that then it is not a helpful question. For the court to decide how to divide things up it must consider the matters in section 25 of The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. So the questions should relate to those things:
- Income and earning capacity
- Other financial resources
- Financial needs
- Financial obligations
- Any physical or mental disability
The questions people ask in questionnaires usually focus around these issues and areas where the other side’s financial disclosure is not complete. There follow some suggested sensible questions. They will not be relevant in every case. Questions should be chosen with care. Sometimes it is not necessary for there to be a questionnaire at all.
In some cases a questionnaire will arrive from the other side with a whole raft of questions to be asked. It may be necessary to ask the judge at the first directions appointment to strike out a lot of them.
In other cases a party may take the view that although the questions from the other side are unnecessary they will answer them anyway as this may help to bring the case to an end.
As a general guide, questions which go to relatively small amounts of money should not be asked. It is very common for example for parties to get over-excited about the value of motor cars. If a car has a significant value then it is something which might be worth looking into. If on the other hand the dispute is only about whether the car is worth £3,000 or £5,000 and the Wife uses the car to take the children to school, resolving the question of the value is not likely to help the court.