There is no doubt that we are in difficult times. When established high street and brand names like Kodak and Peacocks are hit by the economic crisis, you know “times are hard”. Consumers are cutting back, making economies. Almost daily on the news there are reports of like for like sales being down. By all accounts, trading over Christmas was not great, with a few exceptions like Primark – which is unashamedly a budget brand.
It’s no surprise then that we are finding, in the family law arena, that these economies by consumers are also being exercised. There is a boom in DIY divorces (we are told) and we are finding people less willing to commit to getting the correct legal agreements drawn up in divorce to dot every “I” and cross every “T”. And this is false economy.
A good example of this is consent orders, or clean break orders. In a consent order the parties set out any financial agreement that they have reached at that time and formally dismiss the right for either party to ask for more money from each other in the future. This is not a requirement of a divorce but without it, there may be trouble ahead, as the saying goes. We are finding people are setting out how they want to proceed but not sealing it with a legal arrangement. So here are four reasons why a consent order is essential.
- It can alleviate any future court litigation (and therefore costs) if you are able to agree now what the terms of your settlement will be.
- It allows you to enforce any settlement made if one party defaults. For example, if the husband has agreed to pay his wife £50,000 in respect of her interest in the property they were living in and the husband does not pay, she can apply to the court to enforce that. If there is no consent order and she has simply relied on goodwill, this could be disastrous for her, especially if the property is in his sole name. He could legitimately sell the property and move away defeating her of her claim, unless she has a Restriction on the property protecting her interest – a measure often overlooked unless professionally advised.
- Any agreement reached now will be based on the income and assets of the marriage at this point in time. If a clean break is appropriate, meaning that no future financial applications can be made against either party, then you are best to secure that now than be open to any applications in the future – or even against your estate after your death.
- It creates certainty as to the future and allows the parties to concentrate on more important issues such as effective parenting.
It is essential that an experienced specialist family lawyer is employed to help draw up the documents and ensure they are legally binding. Without doing that, saving a few pounds now could cost a fortune in the future.