Avoid Delays When Getting A Consent Order For Divorce Or Separation15th Aug 2023
What is A Consent Order?
A consent order is a legally binding document that sets out the financial arrangements and other important matters that you and your former partner have agreed for a divorce or separation.
You need to start thinking about a consent order as soon as possible. It is a crucial step in finalising your finances.
Why You Need A Consent Order
There are six main reasons why a consent order is essential:
- Legal finality – by obtaining a consent order, you can achieve a legally recognised and binding resolution of the financial matters related to your divorce. Both parties are obliged to adhere to the agreed terms. This prevents any future disputes over these matters.
- Division of assets – the consent order clearly sets out how property and other assets will be divided. These can include houses, flats, land, bank accounts, pensions, investments, businesses and any other jointly owned assets. The order can also determine who gets to keep the family pet(s).
- Maintenance and child support – if there are children involved, a consent order can establish child maintenance and other financial support arrangements. This helps to ensure the welfare of the children.
- Avoiding court proceedings – opting for a consent order allows you and your former spouse to reach a mutual agreement without going through lengthy and potentially costly court proceedings.
- Enforcement – a consent order provides a legal basis for seeking enforcement through the court if you or your former partner fail to comply with the terms of the agreement.
- Financial clarity – having a consent order in place provides certainty about financial obligations and rights. This provides peace of mind for both parties.
The court must approve the order for it to be valid.
Plan Ahead – Think About A Consent Order Now, Not Later
The government will tell you that – before asking the court to approve your consent order – you need to wait until you have your conditional order. (Or your Decree Nisi for cases which began before 6 April 2022).
But actually you need to start thinking about a consent order long before then.
You need to know about financial disclosure right at the very start of the divorce process – rather than six months down the line at the conditional order stage. (Conditional orders replaced the old Decree Nisi, the provisional decree of divorce.)
Some people getting divorced can seem surprised about having to give full and frank disclosure of their financial assets, including pensions.
If you have a public sector pension, you might have to wait three to five months to obtain the cash value of their pension fund(s). This can delay proceedings – which can come as a nasty shock to someone who isn’t expecting it.
So start thinking early about financial disclosure and a consent order. Get expert legal advice from a specialist family lawyer. We can explain in simple terms how to get divorced faster, with less cost and less stress.
Hurdles You Will Need To Overcome
Some of the main challenges that face couples seeking a consent order include:
- Communication and cooperation issues – often the most significant hurdle for reasons that are all too obvious. High levels of conflict or a lack of open dialogue will slow the process down.
- Emotional stress – divorce is an emotionally taxing process. Dealing with strong emotions can hinder the ability to make rational decisions. Emotions may get in the way of reaching a fair and practical agreement.
- Complex finances – divorcing couples with multiple properties, significant assets, businesses or complex investments may find it harder to reach a mutually acceptable settlement.
- Children arrangements – agreeing what is best for the children (where they will live, how they will be supported) can be emotionally charged. This is often difficult, especially while considering each parent’s rights and responsibilities.
- Lack of understanding of legal rights – some people may be labouring under misapprehensions. This can result in them feeling that they are being treated unfairly during negotiations.
- Changing circumstances – sometimes things change between reaching an initial agreement and submitting the consent order to the court. The agreement may need to be changed, leading to delays or disagreements.
- Drafting the order – preparing a legally sound consent order that covers all necessary aspects and adheres to the court’s requirements can be challenging if you don’t have the relevant legal expertise. An inaccurately drafted consent order can lead to future disputes.
- Enforcement concerns – there might be concerns about the enforceability of the consent order, especially if one party fails to comply with its terms in the future.
Having a prenuptial agreement (‘pre-nup’) in place can make it significantly quicker and easier to agree a consent order during a divorce or dissolution.
What Is The Difference Between A Consent Order And A Clean Break Order?
A clean break order is a specific type of consent order designed to sever almost all financial ties between the divorcing parties.
The primary aim of a clean break order is to achieve financial independence after the divorce. It ensures that neither party has ongoing financial obligations to the other.
Once a clean break order is in place, neither party can make financial claims against each other in the future – except in exceptional circumstances such as fraud or non-disclosure during the original agreement.
Clean break orders are more common in cases where both parties:
- are financially self-sufficient
- have similar earning capacities
- have already divided their assets in a way that does not require ongoing financial support.
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Get Expert Legal Help With Divorce
Coles Miller Partner Lindsey Arnold specialises in divorce, separation, dissolution of civil partnerships, children arrangements, complex private law relating to children (international and domestic, including Hague Convention cases), financial remedy proceedings, adoption, domestic abuse cases and family injunctions. She is based at our Poole office.