What is a consent order?
A consent order is a document that sets out the financial agreement made by parties involved in a divorce.
It is legally binding and prevents either party from making a financial claim later on (subject to certain conditions).
Why use a consent order?
There are a number of reasons to use a consent order.
It prevents either party from making future claims, giving you certainty of your situation
Unless you have a consent order, either party can dispute the arrangement you reached and claim your assets. Such claims are particularly common where divorce agreements have been reached informally, out of Court.
Disputes create financial uncertainty and emotional stress, opening 'old wounds'. A new life might be troubled by events that happened long ago. A consent order gives both parties certainty over how assets are split, and allows each to move on in their new life.
It is a cost effective method of having financial divorce settlements recognised by law
Of course, you can have your financial arrangements agreed through the Court, but doing so is costly. The final outcome may not be what both parties want.
If both parties are in agreement with regard to how financial assets should be divided, it is much less expensive to create a consent order, which is just as legally binding provided there was no fraud involved.
However, if either party commits fraud, for example by coercing the other party into signing the agreement, then to consent order is no longer legally binding and both parties are released.
What is included in a consent order?
A consent order should cover the division of all the financial assets that a Court would be able to divide. These include:
The former matrimonial home
The home is usually the asset with the largest value, so is the most important to both parties. The home could also be important because one person might not be able to move house easily (for example, because children are at local schools).
Commonly, ex-spouses agree:
to sell it and divide the proceeds after having repaid any mortgage and any other home related debts
that one person should remain in the house (for example, the parent who cares for the children most of the time) and pay the other a rent
that one person should buy the other person's 'share' of the home from them for a commercial value
that one person takes as settlement the home, while the other takes other assets (not always easy if the valuation of the home or the assets are difficult to obtain)
Other joint assets
Joint assets could include:
cars, white goods (TVs, washing machines etc) and other items bought 'together' during the marriage.
personal property from before the marriage or as a result of an inheritance.
items owned before the marriage or inherited during the marriage are assumed to be brought into the marriage, and therefore could be divided.
Often items are kept by the 'original' owner, but that person may have to make concessions elsewhere to account for the financial value of the items he values sentimentally.
It is usually sensible to agree on division of such items outside of Court unless they are of high financial value.
Pensions and life insurance policies
One or both parties may have a pension or a life insurance policy.
A consent order can be used to split a pension or life policy at its current value, split it as a percentage for future withdrawal (for which the date should be stated) or to offset the value against another asset (such as the home).
The value might be paid now (for example, a sum of money equal to half of the current valuation now, paid now) or in the future (for example, a sum of money equal to half of the current valuation now, paid when the pension can be taken).
Maintenance is usually the most contentious issue. One party always dislikes paying the other income after the split. Maintenance prevents a truly clean break.
A consent order can be used to set out how much is paid, when and for how long. It can include break clauses, for example if the ex-spouse receiving payments remarries, or enters a long term relationship.
Child maintenance can be agreed by the parties, but can be changed by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (if an application is made by either).
We suggest that you do not include child maintenance payments within your consent order.
Expenses can include medical insurance payments, hire purchase payments and school fees.
Sometimes one party will receive benefits from an employer. These are usually divided by the beneficiary paying a sum to his ex-spouse in return for the ex-spouse no longer receiving the benefit.
Debts are usually stated within the consent order along with who will pay each. If one party agrees to pay joint debts alone then any assets that are used to offset these debts should be stated, as well as any agreement made to indemnify the other party.
Pets can be expensive to keep. An order may include who keeps a pet.
Further information and documents
Net Lawman provides a template consent order that you can edit yourself to come to your own arrangement, and that contains all the possible options.
Please note that the information provided on this page:
- Does not provide a complete or authoritative statement of the law;
- Does not constitute legal advice by Net Lawman;
- Does not create a contractual relationship;
- Does not form part of any other advice, whether paid or free.
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