Whilst it is not possible in every case, we would always encourage divorcing couples to try and find agreement with regard to property and financial arrangements following separation.
Finding agreement is of massive benefit to both parties. Understandably, once there is an agreement ‘on the table’ there may be a temptation to relax and trust that the other party will simply adhere to their end of the bargain without any difficulty.
Sadly, this is not always the case. Many divorcing couples fail to take the all-important next step of seeking legal advice to ensure that their agreement is legally binding, enforceable and capable of practical implementation.
If you have reached a financial agreement in principle with the other party in your divorce, your first priority should be to consider a Consent Order.
A Consent Order is a legally binding document that outlines the financial and property arrangements agreed by a couple upon divorce. It is usually drafted and agreed upon by both parties with the assistance of their respective legal representatives and is then submitted to the court for approval. The court applies a ‘safety net’ when considering whether to approve any Consent Order.
Judges require details of both parties’ financial and personal circumstances in determining whether they should or should not approve any Consent Order. In many cases, approval is straightforward and can often be obtained within 4 weeks of submitting the Consent Order.
The advantages of obtaining a Consent Order are numerous:
- Legal Finality: A Consent Order provides a clear and legally binding resolution to the financial and property matters between the parties. Once approved by the court, it becomes a court order which both parties can retain for the future. This helps to bring closure to the divorce process and prevents any future dispute or ambiguity over financial matters.
- Certainty and Clarity: A well-drafted Consent Order clearly outlines the terms of the financial agreement. This can include both significant assets such as property and pensions but also lower-value assets such as contents of the family home or ownership of a car. This clarity reduces the potential for misunderstandings or disagreements in the future.
- Avoiding Court Proceedings: Agreeing to a Consent Order can help both parties avoid the time, expense, and emotional stress associated with prolonged court proceedings. It allows the divorcing couple to retain more control over the outcome and work towards a mutually acceptable solution.
- Customisation and Flexibility: A Consent Order can be tailored to the specific circumstances and needs of the parties involved. This flexibility allows the couple to create a financial settlement that works best for their divorce, rather than relying upon a court-imposed decision which is likely to be more rigid.
- Speedier Resolution: Compared to contested court proceedings, obtaining a Consent Order is generally much faster. It allows a divorcing couple to reach a resolution more efficiently, enabling them to move forward with their lives sooner.
- Avoiding Conflict: There will always be a life after divorce, especially where the parties have children and are likely to share those all-important childcare responsibilities in the future. Collaboratively negotiating and agreeing on the terms of a Consent Order encourages communication and cooperation between the parties. This can help reduce animosity and potential conflicts, which is particularly beneficial when children are involved.
- Privacy: Court proceedings are generally matters of public record, whereas Consent Orders are private agreements. This confidentiality can be advantageous for those who prefer to keep their financial matters out of the public eye.
- Enforceability: Consent Orders are legally enforceable, which means that if one party fails to comply with the terms outlined in the order, the other party has legal remedies available to ensure compliance, such as seeking court enforcement.
Whilst there are many benefits to obtaining a Consent Order, it is vital before proceeding with one that each party fully understands their rights, responsibilities and the potential implications of the Consent Order.
We can identify any roadblocks and pitfalls that might occur from your financial agreement in principle and ensure you are not left with any unpleasant or unexpected surprises later.