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Consent Orders in Divorce – What Is It & Do I Need One?

An agreement reached between parties in a divorce is not legally binding until it receives court approval.

An order made for a consent order needs to be sealed by a Judge to create a legally binding document that can give both parties a clean break and prevent any future claims.

In this guide to consent orders, you’ll learn how to complete form d81 (statement of information), and whether you need a solicitor to help you or not.

the signing of a consent order agreement uk

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    What Is a Consent Order?

    A consent order is a court document that records the financial agreement reached between a couple in divorce proceedings. Once sealed by the court, it becomes legally binding ensuring that both parties get a fair share of their finances and assets.

    When you get married or enter a civil partnership, financial responsibilities between you and your partner come into play.

    By having a consent order approved by the court, you complete the legal process of settling your finances outside of a divorce.

    A consent order sets out the financial arrangements or terms you have reached regarding money, assets, and debts. You can reach an agreement between you and ask a solicitor to draft the document for you.

    In divorce proceedings, the issuance of the Final Order / Decree Absolute, marks the official end of the marriage contract, however, this termination doesn’t automatically end your financial commitments to each another..

    Even after the divorce is finalised, an ex-spouse or partner retains the ability to make financial claims, whether related to income, capital, or pension assets. These claims can persist until the formal conclusion of financial responsibilities.

    Without proper closure, these claims may remain open indefinitely, even if you and your former spouse or partner had a verbal agreement regarding financial arrangements during your separation.

    It underscores the importance of formally settling financial matters to prevent lingering claims beyond the divorce, which is possible with a divorce consent order.

    How to apply for a consent order in a divorce

    1. Agree between you on how money and assets are to be split: Whilst it’s recommended to seek legal advice from family law solicitors when discussing your financial settlement, it’s not required by law.
    2. Prepare a draft consent order based on your formal agreement: Parties are required to complete a statement of information for a consent order in relation to a financial remedy application. The statement of information (Form D81) helps the court decide whether the financial and property arrangements you’ve made are fair.
    3. Apply to the court for approval of your financial consent order: Send the court the signed application along with the necessary supporting documents mentioned above and the £53 court fee.
    4. If you apply to the court alongside your divorce (after the Conditional Order), it becomes legally binding once the Final Order is granted; providing a Judge deems it fair and reasonable.

      In most cases, couples will not need to attend a court hearing in person.

      If the family court has any questions about your financial settlement they may ask you to provide more details on how you came to the agreement.

      Commmon questions

      Can we arrange a consent order ourselves?

      You can arrange your finances between you, reaching an adequate and fair divorce settlement. Whilst recommended, it’s not legally required to use a solicitor for this part of the process.

      When it comes to obtaining a financial consent order, however, you will need to have a solicitor draft this for you. If you skip this step and don’t have a court approve your financial agreement, the court has no power to enforce any part of your agreement should either party deviate from the written or verbal agreement.

      Legal clauses surrounding property, pensions, lump sum payments, and so on are important to get right, which is why you cannot just use an online template.

      We understand the wish for divorcing couples to save money on legal fees, which is why we created an online consent order service for £449 (fixed fee).

      What happens if my spouse breaches the order?

      You should always try to resolve the issue with your ex-partner directly through communication.

      If your ex-spouse continues to refuse to comply with the consent order, you may need to take legal action. This can involve going back to court and asking the judge to enforce the order.

      This can be a lengthy and expensive process, so it’s important to consider all your options before taking this step.

      If your ex-spouse still doesn’t comply with the consent order even after legal action has been taken, they may face consequences such as fines or even imprisonment.

      Overall, it’s important to remember that a consent order is a legally binding agreement and both parties are required to comply with it.

      If your ex-spouse doesn’t comply, there are steps you can take to resolve the issue, but it’s important to seek legal advice and consider all your options before taking action.

      How often do Judges reject consent order?

      While rare, there is a possibility that a consent order may be rejected by the court.

      There is no automatic approval just because you and your former spouse have agreed to the terms of a financial agreement.

      Ultimately, a Judge has the discretion to reject an order if the terms of the agreement are deemed unfair or if the court believes that further information or clarification is required.

      To minimise the risk of rejection, it is crucial to seek legal advice and ensure that the consent order is correctly drafted, reflecting a fair and reasonable agreement between both parties.

      Can we get divorced without a consent order?

      Yes. While it is possible to finalise a divorce without obtaining a consent order, it is generally not recommended.

      Although one can initiate a consent order application after receiving a conditional order (or decree nisi), it remains non-binding until the court approves it.

      In most cases, the consent order becomes fully effective only after securing a Final Order (or decree absolute).

      It’s advisable to seek a consent order to formalise financial arrangements and ensure a fair division of assets, even though it’s not a mandatory part of the divorce process.

      Worried about costs? Save thousands on legal fees with our service for £449.

      How much does a consent order cost?

      A consent order typically costs between £450 online to £3,500+ for a family lawyer to draft a complex agreement.

      The cost and timeframe of obtaining a consent order may vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the agreement and the efficiency of the court system.

      The court fee to submit a financial application and resolve your finances is currently £53.

      Legal fees for a solicitor to draft the order for you will vary depending on the complexity of your agreement and other factors.

      Consent Order vs Clean Break

      A consent order functions much like a clean break order, however, they are tailored for couples with financial assets to separate. It records an agreement between parties concerning the distribution of assets, including property and pensions in divorce proceedings.

      This agreement can either be mutually determined by the couple or, in cases of disagreement, arbitrated by the court.

      Within the consent order, assets are listed and allocated, providing a clear roadmap for financial separation. Additionally, a crucial provision within the consent order is the inclusion of a clause barring either party from initiating future financial claims against the other.

      A consent order is typically more suitable for couples who have been married for 5 years or more. For example, if you have joint property, children, joint savings, investments, and more. There needs to be a document put before a court to outline how these assets are being divided between the parties.

      A clean break order is a mechanism for divorcing couples without shared financial assets to end all financial ties and obligations after divorce.

      By formalising this agreement, both parties waive their rights to pursue financial claims against each other in the future, thereby ensuring a clean break from financial entanglements post-divorce.

      A clean break divorce is often desired by divorcing couples, but they are only suitable for those with no joint assets to divide.

      Usually couples from short childless marriages where there is no requirement for one party to provide on-going financial support to the other after the divorce.

      For more details, read this article comparing a consent order vs clean break order.

      Can I get a consent order after divorce to prevent my ex-partner from making financial claims?

      A consent order after divorce is an essential legal document that ensures the protection of one’s assets and financial stability post-divorce. It is important for individuals to understand the significance of obtaining a financial consent order to safeguard their rights and avoid future complications.

      A consent order is a legally binding agreement that outlines the division of assets, property, and financial responsibilities between the divorcing parties. This document is approved by the court, making it enforceable and providing peace of mind to both parties involved.

      By obtaining a consent order, individuals can establish a clear and fair distribution of assets, ensuring that each party receives their entitled share. This order can cover various aspects, including property, investments, savings, pensions, and debts. It also addresses any ongoing financial obligations, such as spousal maintenance or child support.

      What sets a consent order apart from a mere verbal or informal financial agreement is its legal enforceability. If any party fails to comply with the terms specified in the consent order, the aggrieved party can seek legal recourse. This provides a sense of security, as it ensures that the agreed-upon financial arrangements are protected by law.

      Moreover, a consent order provides closure and finality to the divorce process. It prevents either party from making future claims on assets, even if they acquire new ones.

      Scenarios When Obtaining a Consent Order is Recommended

      Obtaining a financial order is recommended in various scenarios to protect your financial interests and secure a clean break.

      Some situations where a consent order is particularly important to include:

      1. When there are significant assets or complex financial arrangements involved, such as multiple properties, businesses, or investments.
      2. When there is a significant imbalance in financial contributions during the marriage or civil partnership.
      3. When there are children involved and specific financial arrangements need to be outlined, such as child maintenance or educational expenses.
      4. When one party is keeping the family home and buying out the other party’s share. A consent order ensures that any potential claims or financial complications are resolved at the time of the transfer.
      5. When there is a significant disparity in future earning potential between the parties, ensuring that one party does not make future claims on the other’s income.
      6. When there is a possibility of either party inheriting significant assets in the future.

      Quick question

      How long does it take to get a consent order?

      Since the court system was digitised, applications for a consent order can be approved within 2 to 4 weeks.

      Before no-fault divorce was introduced in April 2022, this was taking between four and 10 weeks to be approved by the court.

      Whilst the new online system is quicker, it does still depend on the complexity of your financial agreement and the workload of the court.

      What happens if my ex is refusing to sign?

      Should your former spouse resist signing any financial settlement, the option of seeking court intervention may arise.

      However, it’s crucial to view this as a last resort due to the additional expenses and the typically more time-consuming nature compared to alternative approaches.

      If your spouse remains steadfast in refusing to sign the consent order or an agreement on the financial settlement terms proves elusive, you can petition the court for approval of your clean break consent order. This route is known as an ancillary relief order.

      It is generally advisable to explore all available options, such as mediation, before resorting to court involvement.

      When is the best time to apply?

      You can ask the court to approve your consent order anytime after you have a Conditional Order (decree nisi) in divorce proceedings. The court cannot approve a consent order before this point, meaning you can’t get a consent order without getting divorced.

      It’s typically easier to ask the court for approval during divorce proceedings, instead of waiting for the decree absolute.

      You need to be aware of the potential dangers to applying for a consent order after the decree absolute if you haven’t already sorted out your finances. Certain assets can only be transferred to a spouse, which you would no longer be.

      Things to consider before applying for a consent order

      ‘We have been able to sort out financial matters between ourselves so we don’t need to involve the court’.

      Unfortunately, too many couples assume this and come to regret it years down the line when their ex-partner submits a financial claim against them for extra money or assets.

      Without a legally binding financial order that is granted by a Judge, you will not have severed all financial ties to your spouse.

      If you are in the process of divorce and are now considering the terms of your financial agreement, there are three things to consider before signing the order.

      Don’t assume a 50/50 split is fair

      In most instances, starting at 50/50 is right, but don’t assume that’s right for you without looking at the finer details of your marriage, such as earning potential and childcare responsibilities.

      For example, short marriages are often not split 50/50. It would be unfair to settle for a 50/50 split if there have been inherited assets or vastly different contributions made to held assets from one spouse.

      Don’t assume the Judge will grant your order

      Couples often assume that just because they’ve agreed to a financial settlement the Judge will grant them their order.

      However, this is a dangerous attitude to have as the Judge will only grant the order if he or she feels that the agreement is fair to both parties.

      If they believe the order to be unfair to either party, you will likely be asked to provide more information on how you came to the settlement to ensure both parties understand the order being proposed.

      Consent orders can be rejected by the court if they deem the agreement reached to be unfair. Sometimes, you may need to provide the judge with a clear picture as to why the agreement may appear unfair on the face of it and why you have reached that conclusion. For example, if one party has been bad with money and ran up debts.

      Ensure you have full financial disclosure

      This is one of the most important parts of agreeing to a fair financial settlement.

      You can’t come to a fair deal with your money, property, and assets if both parties don’t have a full understanding of their spouse’s full income, assets, and pension values.

      If you don’t believe there’s full financial disclosure on money, capital, or pensions, we’d recommend that you get some low-cost legal advice.

      How to Get a Consent Order Online?

      Have you reached an agreement with your ex-husband or wife on the division of money and assets?

      If so, our online consent order service for £449 is the most straightforward and affordable way to obtain a professionally drafted consent order to your exact and specific needs.

      Divorce is stressful enough without having a financial burden on top. Our service is a fraction of the cost of local solicitors and typically helps clients save well over £1,000.

      Get a Solicitor Drafted Financial Agreement For £449

      If you have a formal agreement in place with your ex-partner and wish to formalise it into a legally binding court order without spending thousands, our online service is ideal for you.

      Mark Keenan - CEO of Divorce-OnlineThis post was written by Mark Keenan. Managing Director of Online Legal Services Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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