What is a consent order?

Consent orders are an essential part of divorce. Here’s why you need one and how you can get one.

What is a consent order?

A consent order is a legal order made by the court.

It’s a document that sets out the financial settlement that you reach with your spouse during a divorce.

The contents of the document will be unique to each couple as it will reflect their individual needs and circumstances.

Importantly, whatever is in included in the document is legally binding, meaning that you’ll both have to stick to your agreement. If one of you were to break the agreement, a judge has the power to enforce it.

Consent orders are also known as ‘financial consent orders’ or a ‘financial order’.

Can you get divorced without a consent order?

You can get divorced without a consent order.

But that doesn’t mean that you should.

A common misconception is that divorce finances resolved in the divorce process. In fact, they’re dealt with separately.

What people often don’t realise is that being legally divorced doesn’t necessarily end your financial ties to your former spouse.

This means that, unless you have made a consent order, your ex-spouse could make a claim against your estate – even years after you get divorced.

For example, if you were to increase your net worth – by inheriting money, winning the lottery, or even just by getting a higher paying job – your ex-spouse would be entitled to claim a share of the new money.

That’s why you need a consent order – to make the agreement you make with your ex-spouse about how to split your assets legally binding, so you’re protected for the future.

Arguably, a divorce isn’t complete unless you have a consent order.

A consent order gives you peace of mind and allows both you and your former spouse to live truly independent lives.

What should be included in a consent order?

The point of a consent order is to formalise your financial settlement. So, you should use the consent order to set out how you’ll split your assets.

Things you may want to include in your consent order include:

  • Savings and investments

  • The sale or transfer of property

  • Pensions

  • The division of personal belongings, like cars and jewellery

You can also use a consent order to set out future commitments to your ex-spouse, like spousal maintenance and child maintenance payments.

Another thing you can do with a consent order is write clauses that activate in certain situations.

For example, you could set out that the marital home is to be sold and how much you’ll each receive from the proceeds.

What is a clean break order?

A clean break order is a type of consent order that completely separates you financially from your ex-partner.

This means that you have no financial obligations to them, and they have no financial obligations to you.

Clean break orders can be used when a divorcing couple can each support themselves financially.

For more information, read our guide: What is a clean break order?

Do I need a clean break order or a consent order?

Divorcing couples often want to have ‘clean break’ from their spouse. So, getting a clean break order seems like an attractive option.

But this isn’t always possible.

Clean break orders tend to be unsuitable for lengthy marriages. For such couples, their finances are usually so intertwined that having some form of ongoing financial commitments to one another is necessary to make the division of assets fair.

For example, you may have bought a house with your spouse, and you’re both relying on selling the house in the future to be able to buy somewhere else to live on your own.

This means that a clean break order wouldn’t be right for you.

Instead, you would need to set out in a standard consent order that they house is to be sold and how much of the proceeds you’re each entitled to.

On the other hand, a clean break order might be right for you if you weren’t married for long (less than five years) and didn’t build up many assets.

How much does a consent order cost?

There’s a court fee of £53 to apply for a consent order.

You’ll also have to get a solicitor to draft the consent order for you, due to the complexity of dividing valuable assets.

In theory, you could write a consent order yourself, but it would probably be rejected by a judge. And even if it were accepted, it may not give you the protection that you want.

So, in most cases, it’s best to have an experienced family solicitor write your consent order for you.

Solicitors charge various amounts – some charge by the hour, while others charge a fixed rated.

Bear in mind that you’ll probably be charged more if your assets are complicated and if you require several redrafts.

How to apply for a consent order

To get a consent order, you first need to have agreed a financial agreement with your spouse. Then you can ask the court to accept your agreement.

You can apply for a consent order once your conditional order has been granted.

There’s a six week ‘cooling off’ period between getting the conditional order and when you can apply for the final order (the document that legally ends your marriage). This is designed to allow you to negotiate with your spouse on the terms of your separation agreement.

If you apply for a consent order soon after getting the conditional order, it will probably be approved not long after you receive the final order. This means that you’ll be legally divorced, and you’ll have no financial obligations to your ex-spouse.

How long does a consent order take to be approved?

A consent order usually takes six to ten weeks to be approved, but it depends on how busy the courts are.

Due to the backlogs caused by the Covid shutdowns, consent orders were taking up to six months to be approved.

This backlog has gone down now in many places, but there will be variations in waiting times throughout the country.

Talk to a solicitor
A consent order protects your financial situation now and into the future.

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Adam Rivers

Adam creates supportive, easy to read guides for The Law Superstore. He specialises in family law, helping people through divorce, child custody arrangements, and other relationship issues.

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