It is a common misconception that if you and your spouse have decided to separate, that all you need to do is get divorced. Especially as divorce has been made so much easier for couples now that you can apply online with very little legal jargon. 

When you are going through a divorce, the finances need  to be considered and decisions need to be made about what happens with your assets. You may need to go to mediation, negotiate between solicitors, or issue court proceedings in order to reach a financial settlement. However, the last stage in all of these ways of negotiating an agreement is a court order setting out the terms of your agreement (or what the Court has decided the settlement should be, if your Court proceedings reach that stage). 

It might seem very straightforward if you have minimal assets, or a few joint assets that you have agreed to divide between you. So, you’ve reached your agreement between yourselves without having to go through any of the processes in the last paragraph, you implement the terms of your agreement, surely that’s it? 

Wrong. 

By virtue of your marriage, you have certain financial claims against one another that do not end when your Decree Absolute (the final stage of your divorce) is granted. The only way of ending your financial claims is to record your agreement in a consent order. 

This consent order must then be sent to Court, to be approved by a judge, in order to be legally binding. The Court must be satisfied that the consent order is fair and reasonable to both parties, so you have to complete a short form summarising your financial position to assist the judge. Once you have a legally binding consent order, your financial claims against each other are extinguished.

You may think that a consent order is not necessary, as you have minimal assets for example, but imagine if you receive some inheritance in a few years, or have a large win on the lottery. Would you really want your ex-spouse to be able to make a claim on that if your financial claims are still open?

If you would like more information about consent orders, please do not hesitate to contact me at lauren.pilcher@hedgeslaw.co.uk.