Going through divorce proceedings is stressful, complicated and often confusing.
What couples sometimes fail to realise is that, in England and Wales, a divorce does not end the financial relationship between the parties.
This means that, even years after the divorce has been finalised, your ex-spouse may still be entitled to claim your income or assets.
What is a clean break order?
To dissolve the financial relationship between you and your ex, you need to have a clean break order signed.
Both you and your ex-partner will enter an agreement to prevent you from making claims on future assets or income.
The clean break order can involve things such as the sale of a home or property you bought together or represent a fair division of held pensions.
Even if there are no assets in the marriage, a clean break order is still necessary.
You may not have any matrimonial finances, savings or shared assets but if these come afterward, your ex-spouse may still claim them.
How do I get a clean break order?
The clean break order needs to be drafted by a qualified solicitor (a template off the Internet will sadly not do).
The is necessary in order for the judge to grant agreement to the terms of the financial settlement.
Once the clean break order is drafted, it will be processed and approved by the court. Once this happens, the agreement is legally binding.
What happens if my ex won’t sign the clean break order?
Ideally, in cases of amicable separation, the two parties can discuss their finances and come to a mutually satisfying agreement.
However, agreeing on how to split assets and investments upon divorce can breed more conflict than any other part of the process.
If your ex refuses to sign a clean break order or you and your ex-spouse are struggling to come to an agreement, there are various options available.
1. Solicitor to solicitor negotiation
This avenue is typically recommended for high-conflict divorces.
When the relationship ends, there may be residual conflict and resentment that can easily turn conversations into arguments.
It’s a good idea to seek advice from a solicitor.
If you and your ex-spouse cannot reach an agreement, you can resort to a solicitor to solicitor negotiation: your respective solicitors will negotiate the settlement with each other under you and your ex’s instructions.
Solicitor to solicitor negotiation can be expensive and often time-consuming.
That’s why it’s recommended to try mediation before resorting to the first option.
In mediation, an independent third party will aid the discussion between you and your ex-spouse in order to help you reach an agreement.
You can also use mediation when drafting the agreement about any other divorce-related issues, such as custody of children.
In most cases, if you can’t reach an agreement and sign the clean break order, mediation will be necessary – you may need to ask the court to do this for you.
However, in cases of domestic abuse, mediation is not usually required.
3. Collaborative Law
Collaborative law refers to four-way meetings that occur between the two divorcing parties and their respective solicitors.
This can help keep emotions in check and help ex-partners reach an agreement about their finances and financial settlements.
This is normally less expensive than going to court.
4. Ancillary relief order
If your ex-spouse is refusing to sign any financial settlement, you may need to go to court and ask the judge to settle the financial matters for you.
This should only be last resort as it incurs additional costs and is usually more time-consuming than any of the other options.
If your spouse is adamant about not signing the clean break order or you cannot agree on the terms of the financial settlement, ask the court to approve your clean break consent order.
This avenue is also known as ancillary relief order.
The reason why the ancillary relief is more expensive is because it involves solicitor and a barrister.
You will also be required to pay the court fees. The benefit is that the court keeps a very strict timeline which ensures your case will not be allowed to drift. It also doesn’t require the cooperation from your ex-spouse.
Matrimonial agreements (clean break orders) are quicker and cheaper than ancillary relief but the former will very much depend on how cooperative your ex-spouse is.
It’s generally recommended to try and exhaust every option, including mediation, before involving the court – this will provide for a fair division of assets and maintain the amicable relationship between the two of you.