Consent Orders – What are they and why do I need one
A consent order is a legally binding document, which sets out the financial arrangements that you and your ex-partner have agreed to. It is a formal means of recording a financial agreement and details how you will spilt any assets, debts, pension and income you have once you are divorced. Such orders are only valid if it has been drawn up correctly and has been approved and stamped by the family court.
Often when couples divorce they do not realise that finances are dealt with separately to the divorce process itself. It is vital therefore to ensure that financial matters are fully resolved. While proceeding with a divorce and obtaining a decree absolute will legally end your marriage, however, it will not automatically and legally end your financial commitments to one another. Failing to resolve your financial claims following a divorce may lead to your ex-partner making a legitimate claim in the future, for money many years or even decades after the divorce was completed. This means that your respective financial claims against each other remain ‘live’. A simple consent order drafted by a solicitor and approved by the court can ensure that any financial loose ends can be tied to avoid any future claims.
If you and your ex-partner have reached an agreement as to how your finances are to be divided a consent order can be drawn up by a solicitor to reflect the agreement. It is important to bear in mind that a consent order can only be entered into in if both parties ‘consent’ to the agreement.
It is important that you and your ex-partner are completely honest about the financial assets that you hold as failure to provide full and frank financial disclosure of your finances can result in the consent order being void.
Often, consent orders will provide for a ‘clean break’ which essentially ensures that the financial ties between the parties are severed and that neither party can make further financial claims on the other in the future. This allows the parties to be financial independent of one another. While the court is under a duty to consider whether a clean break can be made, this is not always possible where the order make provisions for maintenance. Even if it is not achievable immediately the court will look to achieve a clean break in the future.
The courts approach when considering a consent order is not one of automatic approval, but rather the court will use its discretion to determine whether the agreement between the parties is fair and that each party can afford to fulfil their side of the agreement. If the court is satisfied that the agreement reached is fair, the consent order will be ‘sealed’ and forms a binding agreement between you and your ex-partner.
If there are any queries regarding the agreement, the Judge will usually return the forms to ask for clarification or order the parties to attend a hearing. This is however, less likely to happen if you have both taken legal advice and come to the agreement together.
We always encourage couples to reach an agreement amicably between themselves, whether between themselves, through negotiations in mediation or through the parties’ respective solicitors. It is important that regardless of how the agreement is reached, such an agreement is recorded within a consent order.
At Prince Evans, our team of expert divorce lawyers have a wealth of experience dealing with dispute resolution and consent orders and provide clear, easy to understand legal advice and can help find the right solution for you.
Written by Partner & Head of Family Muna Saleem .