A Consent Order records a financial agreement and severs the financial ties between a married couple. Whilst getting a divorce ends the contract of marriage it does not sort out the financial aspects of your relationship. Agreeing a divorce settlement is one step but unless you enter into a formal agreement (known as a Consent Order) and ensure you have a financial clean break your ex could make a claim for a share of your assets, property, income or pensions in the future.
In a Consent Order the parties set out any financial agreement that they have reached at that time. It is the Clean Break part of the order that formally dismisses the right for you and your ex to ask for more money from each other in the future.
The Consent Order is filed with the Court after Decree Nisi has been pronounced by the court in divorce proceedings. It is sensible to pursue a Consent Order at the same time as, or soon after, you initiate your divorce proceedings to ensure there is no delay in obtaining the order from the Court.
Why you need a Consent Order
Without a Consent Order your ex can change their mind about your financial agreement at any time (even if you have already put it into effect).
If your Consent Order does not include a Clean Break, if you win the lottery, receive an inheritance, or simply get a better job and start earning more your ex spouse might be able to claim a share of your new found wealth.
Once drafted, approved and signed by both parties the Consent Order is submitted to the Court for approval. The procedure is very straightforward and does not involve either party attending court in most circumstances. The Court may ask a few questions before the Order is approved but these can be dealt with fairly simply by letter.
Reasons you might NOT want a Clean Break Order
A Clean Break is not always appropriate straight away. This may be because it is appropriate for one person to pay maintenance to the other to equalise their incomes or to provide a period of security until children are grown or until pension payments can be made.
That does not mean that you cannot have a Clean Break at some point. Provided you can be certain when a change will occur e.g. when children will finish school, or when your ex will have retrained in a new job it is possible to have a Deferred Clean Break Order. This is a binding Order that provides for a Clean Break when certain conditions have been fulfilled.
Where the circumstances are too uncertain for a Clean Break if, for example, a family business is likely to be floated or planning permission is awaited that may significantly enhance the value of a property. It might be necessary for certain claims to remain alive until the position becomes clear. If you believe that your income is likely to decrease significantly or you think your ex’s income or assets may increase significantly in the near future then it may not be in your interests to have a Clean Break.
Whether a Clean Break is appropriate or not, you should always have a Consent Order.
When getting a divorce you should always take advice on the severing of any financial ties and reach an agreement on a financial settlement if appropriate.
For advice on getting a Consent Order and financial Clean Break contact Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832.