Dividing matrimonial finances during divorce can often be achieved on a voluntary basis. However, any agreements reached will not be binding unless a consent order has been approved by the court.
It is important to note that consent orders will not be automatically approved by a judge. A judge will only provide their approval if they are satisfied that the arrangements included in the consent order are fair and appropriate.
Without legal advice on your side, it can be difficult to determine what ‘fair’ is and what conditions need to be fulfilled to avoid a situation where a judge rejects a consent order.
Before you consider making an application for a consent order, it is strongly recommended that you discuss your circumstances with a specialist family law solicitor. Doing so will help to ensure that the order is tailored to your circumstances and will be accepted by a judge.
Consent orders, and financial settlements as a whole, are something our expert team of family law specialists will be able to provide comprehensive guidance on.
What is a consent order?
A consent order is a legally binding document which is approved by a court. The document details the financial arrangements made by a couple in the wake of their divorce, including how their assets are to be divided. In addition to details about money, property, investments, pensions and savings, consent orders may also make reference to spousal maintenance and child maintenance. Consent orders also formally end financial claims the couple have against each other as a result of their marriage.
Consent orders should be applied for after a divorce has been conditionally accepted by the court. There is a formal process to follow, which includes seeking the approval of a judge.
What happens if I don’t apply for a consent order?
Consent orders are extremely important for couples when making arrangements for their finances. Without a valid consent order in place, either party will be freely able to change their mind about the agreements that have been made and can seek a greater share of the assets or financial support at a later date.
For example, if you do not have a consent order, or you do not have a ‘clean break’ included in a consent order, your ex-spouse may be able to claim a share of your wealth, even if you have come into money or acquired assets since the separation. They can also ask for ongoing financial support or make a claim against your pension.
Once a consent order has been created, both parties are bound by its terms and those financial claims are formally dismissed by the court. If any breaches in the agreed terms occur, either party can apply to the court to enforce the order and ensure that the person in breach complies with the order.
Why is financial disclosure important if you want a consent order?
Full financial disclosure is an essential requirement when dealing with consent orders. A judge will not approve a consent order unless both parties’ respective financial positions are detailed in a standard court form.
If you do not provide financial disclosure, or it is later proven in court that you did not disclose all of your assets, the court may be able to look again at your case and make a new order. Deliberately misleading the court can have serious consequences.
When does a judge reject a consent order?
Judges reviewing consent orders will only provide their approval if they determine that the agreement is fair and reasonable in the circumstances. Where they do not think the consent order is fair or appropriate, they will likely ask for the application to be altered and resubmitted.
You may also find that a judge rejects a consent order because:
- One or both parties failed to provide full and accurate financial disclosure
- All aspects of the situation have not been properly considered
- There is evidence of pressure or duress
- There has been a change in circumstances since the application was made
- Legal or clerical errors have been made in the application
It should be noted that dealing with finances following divorce can be extremely complicated, and it is easy to make genuine mistakes which could lead to a judge rejecting a consent order.
However, if both you and your former partner obtain specialist legal advice on the contents of the consent order and the impact it will have on your lives moving forward, it is much less likely that the consent order will be rejected. This is where the expertise of our specialist family law solicitors will prove invaluable.
What can I do if a judge rejects my consent order?
If a judge has rejected what they consider to be an inappropriate or unfair consent order, you will need to amend the original terms set out and resubmit a new application. It may also be necessary to supply further information on how you and your former partner came to the decisions included in the consent order to ensure that all parties understand its implications.
Can you change a consent order?
Whether or not you will be able to change the terms of a consent order will depend on various factors, including whether or not it has already been approved by the court and how cooperative your former partner is.
The parties involved should negotiate the terms, coming to an agreement which is then written into a consent order. Given how important decisions surrounding finances can be, you and your former partner are likely to have plenty of back and forth as you negotiate an agreement that works for you both.
After an application is submitted and then approved by a judge, it will be considered legally binding. This will have very important ramifications moving forward.
Our family law solicitors nationwide are here for you
Applying for a consent order after reaching an agreement on your finances is a major step, providing security, peace of mind and giving you a financial clean break from your ex. So, to ensure that a judge is satisfied with your application, it is vital that you take expert legal advice to help clarify your options and whether the arrangements you have made are likely to be considered fair and appropriate.
At Woolley & Co, Solicitors, our team are here to provide tailored consent order legal advice and to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible.
Divorce and Family Lawyer, Melbourne, Derbyshire