The short answer is yes.
A Consent Order is a legally binding Court order which sets out and deals with yours and your ex-spouse / civil partner’s financial claims against each other.
When you marry or enter a civil partnership you automatically obtain financial claims against the other person. These claims cover each other’s property, assets, income, and pension. They also cover claims against each other’s estate in the future, i.e. claims which would arise if one of you was to predecease the other
Contrary to a popular myth, these financial claims will continue to exist even once your divorce / civil partnership is ended by the granting of a decree absolute (divorce) or final order (civil partnership). This means that your ex can still make financial claims against you in the future (even if many years have passed) provided they have not remarried. Therefore if you do not deal with your financial claims when you divorce / dissolve your civil partnership, you are potentially leaving yourself exposed to claims being made against you at some point in the future.
Agreeing the terms of a financial settlement and obtaining a Consent Order with your ex, either following direct discussions, attendance at family mediation, or via negotiations through solicitors during your divorce / civil partnership proceedings, is the most amicable and cost effective way of dealing with your financial claims against each other.
If you can reach an agreement with your ex, the terms of your agreement can then be written into a Consent Order which would be sent to the Court for consideration and approval with a Judge to make the terms legally binding.
A Consent Order can be applied for at any stage once your divorce has reached the Decree Nisi stage, or a Conditional Order has been granted during your civil partnership dissolution proceedings.
The Court’s approval of a Consent Order is not however a formality or simple ‘rubber-stamping’ process. When a Judge is asked to consider the terms of a Consent Order they will also need to be provided with some financial information about you and your ex and an explanation of how the terms of the agreement have been reached.
The financial information the Judge will need about you includes:
- details of any interest in property that you own
- details of your assets (for instance savings, investments, business interests, cash sums)
- details of your liabilities (for instance credit cards, loans, hire purchase agreements)
- details of any pension provision you have (specifically the ‘cash equivalent’ value for each pension you hold, even if this pension was held before your marriage / civil partnership).
- Details of your current income from all sources.
If the terms of your financial agreement do not appear to be fair or reasonable, or if there is not sufficient explanation as to how a particular agreement has been reached, the Judge may not approve the Consent Order, even though you and your ex had agreed to its terms. In this instance the Judge may require additional information from you / your ex before giving the Consent Order further consideration, and in rare cases the Judge can ask you and your ex to attend Court to discuss the terms of the order requested. The Consent Order will only be approved once the Judge is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so. Until the Consent Order is approved you and your ex will retain financial claims against each other.
It is therefore important that your Consent Order and supporting information is prepared correctly and carefully. Applying for a Consent Order once a financial agreement has been reached can be tricky and it is always a good idea to seek legal advice from a family solicitor to help you with this process.
This article only deals with what should happen once you have reached a financial agreement. If you are unsure about what financial claims/entitlement you have as a result of your marriage / civil partnership, you should seek legal (and potentially financial) advice before entering into any discussions with your ex.