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What is a Financial Consent Order?

View profile for Claudia Hubert
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What is a Financial Consent Order?

A financial consent order is a legally binding document that sets out the financial agreement that the divorcing couple or couple dissolving a civil partnership has reached.

What is included in a Financial Consent Order?

A financial consent order will contain information about how you and your ex-partner will split your assets, pensions, income and debt. The contents of an order will vary depending on each couple’s financial circumstances, but it can include the following:

  • Lump sum payments
  • Property adjustment orders
  • Pension provision
  • Spousal maintenance
  • Child maintenance

Often, such an order will provide for a “clean break”. This means that neither party has any ongoing financial obligation or commitments to the other. This is commonly used where the parties have no assets to split.

Why are financial consent orders necessary?

Whilst a divorce ends the relationship between you and your partner, it does not end your financial commitments to each other. Each party remains entitled to make financial claims against the other even after many years have passed. A consent order approved by the court will ensure those financial ties are severed.

In the 2015 Supreme Court case of Vince v Wyatt, the couple had very little money at the time of divorce. For this reason, they did not apply for a financial consent order. Mr Vince later founded a wind energy firm that became worth approximately £57 million. 

The Supreme Court held that Ms Wyatt was entitled to make a financial claim against him 30 years after their separation. Whilst this is an extreme example, it highlights the need to put a financial consent order in place upon divorce.

How and when do you apply for a financial consent order?

Once the parties have reached an agreement, a draft consent order is filed with the court for approval. This is not a rubber-stamping exercise. The court is not obliged to make the order just because the parties have come to an agreement. If the court deems that the agreement is fair and reasonable, the financial order will be sealed and binding on all parties. 

A Statement of Information form is sent to the court with the draft order. This provides the court with a summary of each party’s financial situation to assist them with deciding whether the order is fair. 

You can apply for a consent order once you have reached the decree nisi stage of divorce proceedings. The consent order becomes legally binding once the decree absolute is in place. 

What happens if a financial consent order is breached? 

Consent orders are legally binding,  so if either party fails to follow the terms of the order, this will be a breach of the order. In this situation, the other party can return to court to request that the consent order is enforced. 

Is it necessary to get legal advice before signing a financial consent order? 

You should always seek legal advice before signing a consent order, even if you have already reached an agreement with your ex-partner. A divorce lawyer can ensure that the agreement reached is a fair one and help negotiate the terms of any agreement on your behalf. 

A consent order is designed to be final. Once approved, it can only be changed in special circumstances, so it is important to make sure it is a fair settlement. 

If you are looking to reach an agreement on your assets and finances or require assistance in preparing or reviewing a consent order, our team of specialist divorce lawyers can help. Please get in touch for a free 15 minute telephone consultation where we can discuss what it is that you would like to achieve. 

I can be contacted on 01245 453810 or claudia.hubert@birkettlong.co.uk.

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