More and more people are successfully navigating much of the divorce process themselves through the online portal without legal representation.

I am often contacted by clients who simply need some limited advice in relation to what grounds to use or how to word the petition and who are then happy to take the lead with that task.

However, whilst the path from filing a divorce petition to obtaining the decree absolute (the final divorce order which means you are divorced) can be relatively straightforward, resolving the family finances can be more complex.

Resolving Family Finances

I believe it is really important to get legal advice on your family finances at the earliest stage of the separation process.

No matter the circumstances of your relationship ending, it is in you and your family’s best interests to resolve the family finances as quickly and amicably as possible.  Court proceedings in relation to family finances take many months to resolve and legal expenses can quickly add up.

By obtaining early legal advice about your situation you can make an informed decision about your future, take control of the situation and enter into negotiations about how to move forward with your partner from a strong knowledgeable position.

Your solicitor should support you in achieving an out of Court settlement, whether through you negotiating directly with your ex-partner or attending more formal alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or collaborative law.  Issuing Court proceedings should be far down your list of options.

Consent Orders

Once you have reached an agreement with your ex-partner, you will be advised to formalise it into a “Consent Order”.

The purpose of this order is to ensure that the settlement you have reached is final and enforceable.

Whilst it may seem particularly important to have a Consent Order made where the settlement involves selling or transferring property, making a pension sharing order or paying over money, the reality is that everyone should have one.

If no Order has been made when you divorce, then unless either of you remarry, either party can go back to Court and make a claim against the other, even many years later.

If your financial position substantially improves after your marriage ends, without an Order in place you leave yourself open to future claims from your ex-partner for financial assistance.  In addition, without an Order, if your ex-partner fails to adhere to what was agreed in the settlement you have no mechanism to enforce what was agreed.

It really is necessary to instruct a solicitor to draft the Consent Order on your behalf.  Whilst it is a relatively straightforward piece of work for an experienced family practitioner, it requires a lot of skill and understanding of the legal principles involved.  Your solicitor will provide you with advice to ensure that you fully understand the terms and implications of what you are agreeing and will encourage your ex-partner also to obtain legal advice to ensure they understand the agreement.

When the Consent Order is prepared, agreed and signed by both parties, it will be sent to the Court to be endorsed.  The Court will not, however, simply “rubber stamp” it.

It will want to ensure that the Consent Order is broadly reasonable. Therefore some additional information is required.

Both you and your ex-partner are therefore required to file a “Statement of Information for a Consent Order” form which sets out brief details of their financial means and circumstances.  In addition, your solicitor may advise you that additional information should be provided to the Court to explain the basis of the settlement so that it will be approved.

If the Court does approve the order, it will be formally sealed and sent out to both parties or their solicitors.   You need to keep this safe, it is an important document that you may need in the future.

It is important to note that the Consent Order cannot be obtained prior to the decree nisi (the first divorce order) therefore you need to that into account when considering the timescales of your matter.  Normally the Consent Order is obtained prior to or simultaneously with the decree absolute (the final divorce order) as it is usually not advised to apply for the decree absolute until the financial matters have concluded.

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