What happens if a consent order is broken

Dad on phone with two children on sofa in background
Originally published on 7th October 2019 at 4:13 PM

A consent order (sometimes called a financial order) will legalise the financial arrangements you have made with your ex when you divorce / end your civil partnership. It’s also the document that will end 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. The courts will not check up on you to see if you are both upholding what is stated but you can ask the court for help if one person breaks 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. Arrangements for the future have to have a ‘by when date’ on them. For example, if you are selling property and dividing the proceeds of sale once all the children of the family are over 18. All arrangements have to 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. 

If someone can pay but chooses not to

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. 

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.

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.

It is costly and time consuming to vary an order and so the emphasis should always be on agreeing an order that is fit for purpose. If you’d like to speak to one of our divorce coaches about agreeing a financial order please contact us.

About the author

Kate Daly is a co-founder of amicable and host of The Divorce Podcast. Kate is a divorce expert and helps couples and separated parents navigate divorce and separation amicably. She's passionate about changing the way the world divorces and campaigns for fairer divorce laws and access to justice.

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