Financial consent orders: everything you need to know
Finances are all too often a contentious issue in divorces. Sorting out ‘who gets what’ can be an overwhelming, difficult process for any couple. That’s why it’s important to know what the process is, and what options are available to you. We’re here to help you understand your rights, and the legalities surrounding the divorce process.
A financial consent order is one key way that you can clarify how your finances will look post divorce. Read this article for more information on how mediation can help you reach a fair solution when splitting your financial and property assets, and pursuing a consent order.
What is a financial consent order?
A financial consent order is used to confirm that a financial settlement has been reached as part of your divorce proceedings. It is a legal agreement approved by a judge to confirm the results of the financial mediation or litigation process where the participants have negotiated an agreement themselves - as opposed to having a decision imposed on them by the judge.
Since it is a court order and therefore legally binding, anyone who acts against the financial consent order, for example, not keeping to an agreed payment plan, will be liable to further legal action.
Financial and property mediation is designed to help divorcing couples distribute their shared financial assets and income fairly. Your professional mediator will help you move through difficult areas of negotiation and help you arrive at a solution that considers both sides and which the couple decide is fair and workable. The results of any mediation sessions are not by themselves legally binding, so this is where a financial consent order comes in.
Once you have reached a financial agreement at the end of your mediation process, your mediator will provide you with guidance on how to get a financial consent order, and what this entails.
What is a financial consent order?
The financial consent order sets out how you and your ex partner should split your finances; this covers things such as property, savings and investments, pensions, and any shared financial obligations. It will clearly set out who will get what and what is required of both sides to give effect to this. It draws a line under the financial arrangements because in signing the consent order, the parties legally commit to the terms set out in the consent order. Once confirmed by the judge, it becomes an order of the court, so someone failing to comply will be subject to sanction by the court.
Does it cover child arrangements?
A financial consent order does not cover arrangements for children. Child arrangements are confirmed using a parenting plan signed by both parents. It is possible to apply for a separate consent order, although this is uncommon. This is a separate matter that you can discuss with your family mediator if you are unsure.
Do I need a financial consent order?
In almost all divorce cases, a financial consent order is recommended in order to prevent parties from going back on what is agreed upon during mediation sessions or coming back for more at a later date if either person’s circumstances change. . However, it isn’t an essential measure, and it’s not automatically included in divorce proceedings. You have to apply for a financial consent order as an additional measure.
The main motivation for getting a consent order is so that both parties can be certain that the other is completely committed to the agreement and cannot change their mind later. Additionally, some financial agreements, such as those relating to pensions – can only be implemented via a court order.
What if we have no financial assets to split?
In cases where couples have no financial assets to discuss, a clean break consent order can be a good choice. This means that you agree to dismiss any future claims against the other. So, even when you have no assets to settle at the time of your divorce, this protects you from any future disputes being opened up.
Can we get a financial consent order if we’re not getting divorced?
No, a consent order is designed specifically for divorcing couples and the dissolutions of civil partnerships. If you’re not getting divorced, then you can consider a separation agreement as an alternative.
You must have a conditional order to be eligible for a financial consent order. A Conditional Order was previously known as a Decree Nisi prior to April 2022. This is the first stage of obtaining a divorce, where a judge certifies that they see no reason to obstruct your application. A judge will only approve a financial consent order if the couple have a conditional order certificate.
How do I get a financial consent order?
In order to obtain a financial consent order, you’ll first need to reach a financial and property agreement with your spouse. This agreement can then be taken to the court in order to make it a legally binding financial consent order. You must be in the process of getting a divorce in order to apply for a financial consent order.
The court may either accept or decline the terms of the agreement, as set out in the consent order. By its very nature, a court must act in a just way and so will only approve a consent order which it considers legally fair. It is therefore advisable to seek guidance on what to include in your agreement before taking it to court.
Get help agreeing with mediation
In most divorce cases, you will have to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)before you are able to make your application. This is a meeting that takes place with a family mediator, who will evaluate whether mediation will be a helpful and suitable way for you to come to a financial agreement.
Many separating couples use mediation to come to a financial agreement. The mediator will help you and your ex-partner collate all the financial information and then explore all the options for how you can sort out your finances in a way you consider fair to both of you.
Upon successful completion of financial mediation, you and your ex-partner will have agreed on all the different aspects of a comprehensive financial agreement. This agreement can then be taken to the court in order to make it legally binding by way of a financial consent order.
Many couples find mediation a more flexible and practical way to find solutions, since it does not involve the courts. If you’re unsure whether mediation is the right choice for you, find more about the benefits of mediation.
With Mediation First, your dedicated family mediator will guide you through the process, helping you understand each step and feel at ease throughout.
Completing the statement of information (Form D81)
A statement of information (also known as a Form D81) provides a full breakdown of each person’s financial situation and is required by the court when you submit your consent order.
Form D81 is what the courts will use to determine whether the financial and property arrangements you’ve set out in the consent order are fair. It gives the judge a full understanding of each individual’s circumstances, and how the terms of the agreement are likely to impact them.
The statement of information document should include:
- Details of the marriage or civil partnership, such as the date of the marriage or civil partnership ceremony, and the date of separation.
- Financial agreement information:
- How was the proposed consent order reached?
- A calculation of current capital assets including property value, bank accounts and pension valuations.
- A calculation of current net income including income earned after tax, state benefits received, and any other sources of income such as investment income.
- The capital and income positions after implementation of the proposed consent order.
- Any other matters relating to the proposed consent order that the court should consider.
- Medical conditions.
- Change of employment.
- Other significant changes in circumstances.
- A concise explanation of the main reason for your proposed consent order’s division of assets.
- A particular housing need.
- Dividing assets equally.
- Dividing assets unequally for a particular reason.
- Financial plans where a clean break consent order will remove existing maintenance payment arrangements.
- Where you, your spouse and children plan to live and on what basis.
- Details of any new relationships.
- Information for mortgage providers.
- Pension Order information.
- Statements from both parties confirming that all the information and facts they have given are true. Both parties have to then sign the Statement of Information.
Your mediator will offer you guidance in compiling this document. You can download the form from the government website.
Once you have submitted the statement of information (Form D81) to the court and your proposed consent order, the judge will review your statement. If the judge has any queries about how fair your proposed agreement is, they will ask you to provide further justification before making a judgement.
In most cases, the financial consent order will be granted, unless the judge sees part of the agreement as unfair to either person. This is why it’s advisable to apply for a financial consent order only once you’ve been through some form of dispute resolution process such as mediation to prevent the need to redo your application.
How long does it take to get a financial consent order?
Generally, a financial consent order takes around 1-2 months to process once it has been submitted to the court. However, there are variables to consider that can affect the amount of time this takes, such as any court delays, and how complex the case is.
Can a financial consent order be changed at a later date?
No. A financial consent order is intended to be final, so it’s important to consider the terms carefully before submitting it to a court for approval. Provided that both parties have set out their financial circumstances honestly and fairly, and the judge approves the order, it is final and cannot be changed.
Since a formalised financial consent order is conclusive and irrevocable, it is very important that you only agree to the terms if you are sure that they are fair to you. That is why many find it beneficial to negotiate the agreement in the presence of a professional financial and property mediator before drafting and signing the consent order and Form D81.
How much does a financial consent order cost?
An application to the courts for a financial consent order costs £50. Bear in mind that this is on top of any mediation fees and any solicitor’s fees, and is not included as part of your sessions with Mediation First.
To summarise, a financial consent order is used to detail how you and your ex-partner’s finances and assets will be separated following the divorce. Using mediation during your divorce proceedings helps couples come to fair and viable financial agreements, which can then be made legally binding by turning them into a financial consent order.
The consent order brings your financial dispute to a conclusion and protects both sides from any further claims for capital or income from the other person.
Arrange your financial mediation session
If you are looking to come to a financial agreement with your ex-partner, we can help with mediation. Get in touch with us to find out more. You can also call or email our friendly team to get started:
Tel: 0330 320 7600
Our team of professional family mediators are on hand to guide you through the process, and answer any other questions that you may have.
Mediation First offer the following services to help divorcing couples: