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What Is The Importance of a Clean Break Order In Divorce?

A clean break order is a type of court order that ensures financial independence between ex-spouses after divorce. It is designed to sever financial ties, meaning neither party can make future financial claims against the other, including claims on future income, pensions, inheritances, or windfalls such as a lottery win.

Once it receives court approval, a clean break settlement ensures a complete financial separation and allows ex-partners to move forward independently post-divorce.

There can be no ongoing financial obligations or entitlements, such as spousal maintenance payments in a clean break divorce.

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    Author: Lara Jayne Davies

    This post was written by Lara Jayne Davies. Lara is a family law solicitor specialising in Matrimonial and Private Children matters. She thinks creatively and cost-effectively to assist clients in achieving the best possible outcome whilst always providing the highest levels of client care.

    Why is it important to get a clean break order?

    A clean break order is not automatic after the Decree Absolute/Final Order. Without a clean break order, financial ties persist post-divorce.

    Financial claims, including those related to income, capital, or pension assets, can be made by either party years later, unless they remarry

    A clean break order protects you from future claims on windfalls such as a lottery win or inheritance. Without this, your ex-partner could have grounds to contest for a share of any unexpected windfall or future income.

    The cost to obtain a clean break order is typically around £1,500, but not with Divorce-Online. See how our service works for £449.

    Can you get a clean break order after the final order of divorce?

    A clean break order can be sought any time after the Conditional Order is granted in divorce proceedings or after the Final Order of divorce, previously known as the “decree absolute,” has been granted.

    However, it is generally advisable to settle all financial matters and obtain a clean break order before the decree absolute is issued if possible. This is because the financial claims remain open until they are formally dismissed by the court through a financial order.

    If a clean break order was not obtained during the divorce proceedings, the parties can still apply for one after the decree absolute. This is important to ensure financial certainty for both parties in the future.

    It is worth noting that until a clean break order is made, there is a risk that one party could make a financial claim against the other in the future, potentially many years after the divorce.

    To obtain a clean break order after the decree absolute, the parties will need to come to a mutual agreement about their financial separation, or if an agreement cannot be reached, they may need to go through further court proceedings for the court to decide on the terms of the order.

    What is the difference between a Clean Break Order & Consent Order?

    The key difference between a clean break and a consent order is that a financial consent order covers a wide range of financial arrangements and can include ongoing commitments like spousal maintenance.

    A clean break on the other hand specifically aims to terminate all financial commitments between the parties, apart from child maintenance if the couple has children.

    A clean break consent order can include financial arrangements such as the division of property, savings, and pensions whilst also addressing future claims by giving an end date to specific ongoing commitments, known as a deferred clean break.

    Clean Break Order vs Consent Order – How Are They Different?

    What to do if my ex won’t sign a clean break order?

    Fortunately, there are various options available if your ex won’t sign a clean break order after the divorce.

    If your former spouse isn’t cooperating and won’t sign a financial order to end your financial ties, the first thing you should do is seek advice from a family law solicitor.

    Whilst you have options available, you need to make sure that you choose the best option for your specific circumstances.

    Fundamentally, clean break orders are always quicker and far cheaper than ancillary relief proceedings (contested) but will very much depend on how cooperative your ex-husband or wife is.

    Generally, it’s recommended you exhaust every other option first, starting with mediation, before involving the court.

    We have no assets to divide, do we still need a clean break?

    Here is a scenario we often hear from clients. “I just want to get a clean break order legalised, there are no assets, and the house has already been sold and split between both parties”. Many divorcing couples make the mistake of not applying to the court to end financial ties between them, leaving future claims open.

    Don’t wait until you inherit wealth, start a successful business, or buy a property before getting a clean break order, as your spouse could claim against these assets at any point in the future. View our Clean Break Order Service for £449.

    Pros and cons of clean break orders:

    The benefits of a clean break are significant. It provides certainty and closure, allowing both partners to move forward without ongoing financial entanglements. This can be particularly beneficial in situations where both parties wish to start afresh, minimising future conflicts and legal proceedings.

    Advantages of a clean break:

    • Brings an end to your financial obligations to one another post-divorce.
    • Can help couples save money on legal fees.
    • Puts your future finances out of reach of your ex-husband or wife.
    • Can help to reduce conflict around the division of assets.
    • Allows both parties to move on with security and peace of mind.
    • Can help speed up the process of divorce by coming to a mutual agreement.

    Disadvantages of a clean break:

    • It can be difficult to achieve for couples in longer marriages
    • Can be difficult to sever all financial obligations making a clean break impossible.

    In what situations is a clean break divorce possible?

    Not all couples can achieve a clean break in divorce.

    It’s quite usual for financial obligations to continue after a divorce, especially if there are children who need to be cared for.

    The court also wants to ensure that the ‘lower earner’ is supported with the cost of living in the future. These ‘needs’ are one of the factors a Judge will consider.

    This may involve the financially better-off party paying an amount of money to support their ex-parter, which is known as spousal maintenance.

    This ongoing obligation would stop the couple from achieving an immediate clean break, and instead, they would require a financial order to document this payment. This could include the amount and payment schedule.

    Couples who have built up joint assets throughout the marriage, such as savings and pensions will need to negotiate how these will be distributed fairly.

    It’s not to say you can’t reach a clean break, but it’s more common for these outcomes to be documented in a financial consent order as they include long-term solutions to cater to each person’s needs.

    However, spousal maintenance isn’t required in all divorces.

    Sometimes the parties will have few jointly-owned assets and no children to support. In these circumstances, a clean break can bring an end to future financial claims for both parties.

    Why don’t more couples get a clean break divorce?

    Not dealing with the financial aspect of marriage can have serious consequences on your finances in the future. Here are the most common reasons why couples don’t bother with a clean break order:

    • No assets at the time of divorce – Most couples who are separating after a short 2-3 year marriage don’t believe it’s necessary as they have moved out of their rented accommodation and both parties can live financially separate from each other.
    • Lack of awareness and understanding of the law – Most couples who carry out a DIY divorce without receiving legal advice don’t know about clean break orders. This is a common mistake and one of the main downsides of handling your divorce without getting any legal advice.
    • A belief that it’s too expensive – Couples often wrongly believe that a clean break is an unnecessary cost that they don’t need. In reality, you can spend £500 and have the order sent to court for you by solicitors. This is significantly cheaper than being taken to court in the future.

    Common questions

    What are the dangers of getting divorced without a clean break?

    In a recent study by Legal & General, they found that only 31% of people who had divorced had signed a Clean Break Order, meaning that more than two-thirds (69%) could be liable for a future claim from their ex-spouse. Here are a couple of high-profile cases that highlight the need to end all financial ties regardless if you have no assets at the time of divorce:

    Wyatt vs Vince – Dale Vince built up a highly successful green energy business (Estimated to be worth £57M) but he was made by the court to pay his ex-wife £300,000 after being divorced for 20 years.

    Nigel Page who, after winning £56M on the EuroMillions, had to pay his former spouse £2 million in an out-of-court settlement after being divorced for 11 years.

    Can a clean break order be overturned?

    A clean break order can be overturned, but this occurs only under very limited and exceptional circumstances. The scenarios in which a clean break order might be overturned include:

    • Fraud: If it is discovered that one party has committed fraud by not disclosing their assets fully or accurately to the other party during negotiations.
    • Mistake: Grounds for an appeal could occur if a significant mistake was made that affected the outcome of the original order.

    These situations are rare, and courts are generally reluctant to overturn a clean break order once it has been made. The legal threshold for overturning such an order is high, as a clean break intends to finalise the financial ties between the divorced parties.

    Do both parties have to agree?

    Yes, both parties must agree to a clean break order. If you cannot agree between you then you may need the help of the courts to resolve the matter.

    Do I need a clean break order if I remarry?

    Yes, it is advisable to obtain a clean break order before remarrying in the UK.

    If you remarry without settling your financial matters with your previous spouse, you may lose the right to make any financial claim against them in the future. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘remarriage trap

    Do I Need a Clean Break Order If I Remarry?

    How long does it take to get a clean break order?

    Most couples can expect to wait approximately 6 – 8 weeks from application to receiving court approval of your clean break order. The actual amount of time it takes for a clean break order to be granted can vary depending on the court’s workload and the specifics of the case.

    How much does a clean break order cost?

    As of the 1st May 2024, the court fee to apply for a clean break order is £58. Court fees are set by the Government and are in addition to any fees you pay to solicitors.

    A clean break financial settlement typically costs between £400 and £1,500 depending on the specifics of your case, where you live, and the solicitors you select to assist you.

    The simplest way to save money on legal fees is to get a clean break order online. This can cost as little as £449 and potentially save over £1500 compared to instructing local solicitors.

    How to determine if a clean break is right for you

    The nature and extent of the assets and liabilities, including property, savings, pensions, and debts, can influence whether a clean break order is appropriate.

    A clean break order is more likely to be considered when both parties have roughly equal financial resources or when it’s possible to fairly divide the assets and responsibilities.

    If one spouse requires ongoing financial support, such as spousal maintenance due to a significant income disparity or other circumstances, a clean break order may not be appropriate.

    The length of the marriage or civil partnership can also play a role in determining whether a clean break is appropriate. In shorter marriages, it may be easier to achieve a clean break since there are fewer shared assets and financial ties.

    A clean break is not automatically granted after a divorce. The goal is to create a financial arrangement that is fair and suitable for the individuals involved.

    Legal advice from a family law solicitor can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of divorce and financial settlements.

    Leave your marriage with security and peace of mind

    In this article, we have covered the essential things you need to know about clean break financial orders, but to summarise:

    • Clean break orders are suitable for couples who have no ongoing financial obligations (spousal maintenance), typically short childless marriages.
    • It’s prudent to make sure that your matrimonial finances are settled before applying for the decree absolute (Final Order)
    • Longer marriages are typically very difficult to achieve a clean break and couples are encouraged to obtain a financial consent order instead.

    If you would like to learn more about how we can help you obtain a clean break divorce with no hassle and a low-cost fee, speak to us on Live Chat or Request a Callback.

    Clean Break Financial Order Service for £449

    You don’t need to spend thousands of pounds hiring local solicitors if you have agreed to obtain a clean break order following your divorce. We provide an affordable fixed-fee service to secure your finances without breaking the bank on solicitors’ fees!

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