Consent orders are essential if you intend to make any financial agreements legally binding following a divorce. Without a consent order in place, either party will be able to change their mind about any informal agreements that have previously been made, which could have major consequences.
Once a consent order is approved by a judge, both parties will be held to the terms that have been set out. Failing to adhere to the terms of the consent order could amount to a ‘breach’.
If you and your former partner have a consent order in place, and you believe that they have breached its terms, there may be a range of options available to you.
To help you understand the way a consent order works, and what your position is likely to be, it is vital that you discuss your situation with a specialist family law solicitor. Consent orders and financial settlements are matters that our family law solicitors will be able to provide expert guidance on.
Can a consent order be breached?
Yes, it is possible for either party to breach the terms of a consent order. What is considered to be a breach will depend on the terms that have been previously agreed. A common example where someone may be in breach of a consent order would be where one party fails to make spousal maintenance payments as previously agreed.
What happens if a consent order is breached?
Where a consent order breach takes place, it may be possible to find a resolution via a voluntary agreement. There may be a reasonable explanation for why the terms of the order were breached which can be easily resolved, such as if there was an administrative error which led to maintenance payments being late.
If a breach is more serious, or has happened on multiple occasions, it may be necessary to provide notice to your ex-partner in the form of a formal letter which explains the details of the breach and provides them with the opportunity to rectify the issue.
If this is unsuccessful, the next step in finding a resolution will be to apply to the court to enforce the order and remedy the breach.
How can I remedy a breach of a consent order?
When applying to enforce a consent order you provide the court with details of how the order has been breached but you can leave the method of enforcement to the court to decide.
If the court agrees that a breach has taken place, there are a number of enforcement options that could be imposed on your former partner. Examples of enforcement options for a breach of consent order include:
- Attachment of earnings order – The court directs that a specific sum be taken directly from your former partner’s wages
- Charging order – Any outstanding payments are secured against property owned by your former partner (and in some cases the court can make an order for its sale)
- Warrant of execution – Possessions can be seized by bailiffs to ensure that payments are made as per the terms of the consent order
- Third party debt orders – The court can order that money owed to your former partner be paid to you to cover money owed (usually from banks or building societies)
- Judgment summons – Failing to comply with a consent order can be a contempt of court. In extreme cases, the court can commit the person to prison in case of persistent non payment
- Signing of documents – Where a signature is needed for example to transfer property or release funds, the court can intervene to provide this
Will a breach of a consent order always be enforced?
Not necessarily. In situations where the court believes that there was a reasonable explanation for the breach of the consent order, they may not take enforcement action. This highlights the importance of seeking out specialist legal advice prior to applying to the courts, as this could help to speed up the process and ensure that a resolution can be reached more efficiently.
Our family law solicitors nationwide are here for you
It can be difficult to know what to do and where to turn if you believe that your partner has breached a consent order. So, to ensure that you understand your options and what actions are likely to be in your best interests, it is vital that you instruct expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
At Woolley & Co Solicitors, our team are here to provide tailored consent order legal advice and to and make the process as simple and stress-free as possible.
Family Law Solicitor, Stoke on Trent