What happens if a consent order is breached?

Originally published on 7th October 2019 at 3:13 PM
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A consent order (sometimes called a financial order) will legalise the financial arrangements you have made with your ex when you divorce or end your civil partnership.

It’s also the document that will end the possibility of financial claims against each other in the future. A consent order is a safety net that protects you both so that one person can’t change their mind in the future.

What happens if there is a breach of consent order terms?

The courts will not check up on you to see if you’re both upholding what is stated, but you can ask the court for help if one person breaches the agreements documented in the consent order.

The details laid out in a consent order can cover what is happening now or what you have agreed will happen in the future, such as with a mesher order.

Arrangements for the future must have a ‘by when’ date on them. For example, if you’re selling a property and dividing the proceeds of the sale once all the children of the family are over 18. All arrangements must be feasible.

For example, one person can’t say that £200,000 will be transferred to the other in five years’ time if that £200,000 currently doesn’t exist and there is no way to show how it will exist in the future.

If you’ve had a sealed consent order formalised through the courts and one person breaks the agreement, please read the most common scenarios below. 

What happens if someone chooses to ignore, breach or break the terms of the consent order despite having the means to fulfil the agreements?

If one person chooses to ignore something that was agreed within the consent order but has the means to pay, you can ask the court to enforce the arrangements.

If they ignore the court order then this can be punishable by a fine or in very serious instances, prison. 

What happens if one person has been ordered to pay a lump sum order or sell a property and they refuse?

The court has the power to enforce any order made as part of your financial agreement. You would need to apply to the court to enforce your consent order.

What happens if one person can’t afford to pay spousal or child maintenance ordered due to a major change in circumstances?

If one of the arrangements cannot be made, for example, one person loses their job and is unable to pay spousal or child maintenance then you have the option to, at any point, make a new arrangement between you, it just won’t be legally binding. 

If you cannot agree then one of you must apply to the court for a variation of the order. This can only be done in very limited circumstances.

The court will then look at the new circumstances and the ability of the paying person to make the payments ordered.

The court cannot force someone to pay money from income they simply do not have.

If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.


How legally binding is a consent order?

Once a judge approves a consent order, it is now legally binding and must not be breached. However, the court doesn’t check that the consent order is being followed. If one person is unhappy with the other’s actions in respect of their following of the consent order, then they can let the courts know and they can then enforce that the other person follows the terms. If they continue to ignore it, then they can face further repercussions from the court.

Can a judge overrule, change, or amend a consent order?

Yes, if both people are happy for the consent order to be changed or amended, they can apply for elements of their arrangement to be changed to the court. Alternatively, they can informally agree that a certain part of the consent order doesn’t need following.

Do judges reject consent orders?

Yes, judges do sometimes reject consent orders. One of the most common reasons for this is because the people who wish to have a consent order approved have not sought the help of a legal or financial professional who have the expertise to correctly draft a consent order. Another reason is that the arrangements made between the two people in question are not considered fair by the courts. If you would like to speak to one of our Consent Order specialists, click here to book a free 15-minute consultation.

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Kerry Ridyard
17.02.2020 9:46

My consent order, Aug 2016, states that my ex husband pays maintenance for our children until they leave full time tertiary education, (this was agreed in mediation) however, since our daughter went to university in September he hasn't paid for her, only our youngest daughter. The agreement was written as a Christmas Order that breaks and rejoins annually and as such never becomes over a year old. Ignoring this, my ex has asked the CMS to assess. The CMS called me to say that as our consent order is over a year and a day old they are going to make an assessment based just on our youngest child, and state that he doesn't have to pay for our daughter at uni as she is a financially independent adult. Where does this leave me?