What is a consent order? Guide to financial consent orders during divorce
What is a consent order?
A consent order is a legally binding document, that formalises the financial arrangements you and your ex have agreed to. There are many legal professionals who can help prepare your consent order. Whilst you don’t need a solicitor to draft or write up your consent order, you do need someone who understands the legal process and has experience in drafting the consent order form. This is where amicable can help.
What is a financial consent order?
A financial consent order details how you're going to sort out your finances post-separation. This includes how you'll split any assets, debts, pensions, and income you may have once you're divorced, or your civil partnership has been dissolved. It's legally binding , which means it will protect you both if anyone tries to change their mind in the future.
What is a clean break consent order?
You will find a 'clean break clause' in a financial consent order form, this prevents any future money or assets that you may earn or receive (such as pensions, inheritance, lottery wins or earnings) from being claimed by your ex.
Most people are surprised to learn that a divorce or dissolution doesn't end the financial ties you have with your ex. So, if you don't get a consent order for divorce or dissolution, your ex can still make financial claims against you (and vice versa) in the future, even after many years have passed.
Here’s how consent orders work...
A step-by-step guide on applying for a consent order
Step one: What information is needed to complete consent order forms?
There isn’t one singular consent order form, because there are several parts to a consent order application. Here are the key documents you send to court with your consent order.
Statement of Information for a consent order (D81)
First, you will need to complete a Form D81 Statement of Information – this is a snapshot of your current financial position. You will need to give the court a summary of the value of:
- your assets (e.g. properties, vehicles, business assets and bank accounts)
- your debts (loans, credit cards etc),
- your pensions (even if you have agreed to leave each other’s pensions you will need to provide a CETV – Cash Equivalent Transfer Value for each pension you hold)
- your income from all sources (including any maintenance, benefits, or rental income you receive).
For more information on the CETV and pensions, click here.
If you’re confused about filling out the D81 Form, you can book a free 15-minute consultation below.
Draft consent order
The other document you will need to submit is the consent order. This isn’t normally a document you can prepare yourself. Instead, it should be properly drafted by a legal professional as it will need to include certain legal clauses and there is no template for this. This is where amicable can help.
You and your ex will have to decide how you will split your finances in a fair way. You can decide this between yourselves and reach a kitchen table agreement, or you can seek help from a professional such as amicable or a mediator. Our services can help you come to a fair and amicable arrangement, without breaking the bank.
There are other options to help you reach an agreement, such as using solicitors. However, this can be more expensive and take longer.
You can get advice on your options to help you draft a consent order and completing form D81 by booking a free 15-minute call with one of our Divorce Specialists to talk through your personal situation.
The consent order sets out what you would like to happen to your finances when you divorce. It may include what will happen to property, assets, debts, and pensions. Child and spousal maintenance - along with lump sums that’ll be transferred between you - will also need to be recorded. Consent orders also set out a timetable for when payments will be made, or when assets will be transferred.
It’s always a good idea to include the rationale for how you’ve decided to split things so that the judge understands what you are seeking to achieve and can check that is fair and achievable from what is set out in the consent order. This can be added within a Form D81.
You will also need to fill out Form A (an administrative document that allows you to apply for consent order approval) and if you are sharing a pension, then you will also need to complete a pension sharing annex or P1 form.
What is financial disclosure and why is it necessary?
Financial disclosure is the term used for providing the court with a snapshot of your current financial position. The court needs to know all your individual and collective assets, debts, pensions and incomes in order to judge whether the agreement you have reached is fair. It also helps to show the court that when you reach an agreement for your financial separation, you have done so with a full set of information. It is not possible to get a consent order without financial disclosure. We have a guide on financial disclosure if would like to learn more about this.
There are various forms for disclosing your finances and they usually differ based on which route you have chosen to go down:
Form E is the document traditionally used by solicitors and mediators. Most solicitors will have an electronic version of this form. If you are using the court route, this is the form you will need to complete and exchange with your ex before you have a hearing to discuss your financial settlement.
Mediators use a special form for this which is accepted by the court.
If you are using the amicable service, you can collect all your financial disclosure information in our easy-to-use divorce portal. You can agree with your ex on what evidence you want to include and any information you choose to provide in our dashboard. It's very easy and only the relevant questions are presented, so no wading through endless forms.
All applications to the court must have a Form D81. When you sign a D81 court form, you are signing to say you have disclosed your assets fully to your partner and vice versa. You do not need to attach any evidence of your financial information to this form.
Step Two: Who decides whether our consent order is fair?
*A family judge will review your documents and decide if the agreement is fair. *
The law does not currently have an absolute standard for dividing assets, nor for what is considered fair in the division of financial assets. However, the starting point when dividing assets is a 50/50 split. But if one of you has a greater need, for example, you are housing the children or earning a lot less, then the split may differ.
You can use our free agreement checker to understand whether your agreement is fair.
These are the sorts of things that the courts consider when deciding:
The court’s primary concern is the welfare of your children. The court will want to ensure that your children have a stable roof over their heads as a priority. Some examples of what a judge takes into consideration when deciding whether your consent order is fair are: Where your children will live/who your children will live with, their age, mental and physical health, and their educational costs.
A judge may consider whether one of you has a greater need than the other and therefore should get more than half the assets. This could include whether one of you needs ongoing support, or “spousal maintenance”. This can mean a departure from an even 50/50 split.
Income and earning capacity
If one of you has stayed at home to raise the children, your earning capacity may be reduced, and you may need a greater share of the assets. Especially if you cannot raise a mortgage or pay rent. As another example, one of you may have lost your job. In this case, the court may consider how likely it is that you will find another job at a similar level of salary.
Current or potential assets
The judge will consider whether you have split your property and assets in a fair way. This includes assets that are held in sole names and/or were purchased prior to the marriage. If needs dictate, they should be in the mix as well as those held jointly.
Age and health
Pensions become more important the nearer to the retirement age you are. Age, as well as any long-term health issues, may affect your earning capacity and housing needs. A judge will consider whether you have come to a fair arrangement for both of you in retirement and whether splitting pensions equally is fair if you are of different ages.
Length of marriage
In shorter marriages, ‘fair’ is more likely to mean taking out what you put in… i.e., what you brought to the marriage or civil partnership. Most people agree a marriage of less than two years is likely to lead to this kind of settlement. However, if you have children, the needs of the children will always be prioritised over the length of marriage.
The law considers financial contributions as equal to those of homemaking (time spent looking after the family). Marriage is a partnership of equals, and the law seeks to distribute assets in a way that recognizes this. So, a smaller financial contribution doesn’t necessarily mean less of the assets.
Step Three: How long does a consent order take?
The timescale for a consent order depends on how organised both of you are in gathering your financial information e.g. your pension CETV (which can take up to 12 weeks) and negotiating a settlement. You should allow at least six months for the consent order to be sealed by a judge, regardless of whether you’re completely agreed upon how you want to split things and whether you have all the right information.
Step Four: How long is a consent order valid for?
Once a consent order has been signed off and sealed by a judge, it is valid indefinitely. This means, because it is legally binding it shouldn't be broken and can't be changed unless you apply to the court for an amendment. If you have a spousal maintenance order, this can be varied with a change of circumstance.
Can you get a consent order without being divorced or ending your civil partnership?
The short answer is no. You will have to apply for and receive your conditional order (formerly known as the decree nisi) certificate. It usually takes around 30 weeks to get to the conditional order stage of the process (or around 12 for decree nisi if you are using the previous system).
We recommend using the time it takes for the court to process your divorce application (formerly known as the divorce petition) to collect your financial information and begin to negotiate a settlement. That way, when your conditional order has been processed, you’re ready to go with submitting your consent order form. You can find more information about the divorce or dissolution process here.
Do I need a lawyer to do a consent order?
No, but you will need someone who understands the legal process and has experience in drafting orders as there are certain legal clauses that must be included.
This is where amicable come in, we offer a fixed-price consent order writing service and guidance from your personal Divorce Specialist who can help you to negotiate a fair financial split.
Why do I need a consent order?
You don't 'need' a consent order, as this is optional, but it might be worthwhile considering having one if you would like to end all future claims or make your financial arrangements after divorce legally binding.
Can a judge change a consent order if they disagree with it?
A Judge can respond with their queries which you may need to address for the consent order to be granted.
Do both parties need a solicitor for a consent order?
You don't need a solicitor to write up your consent order, but you do need someone who understands the legal process and has experience to draft consent orders. This is where amicable can help.
Can I draft my own consent order?
Yes, you can draft your own consent order. However, it's important to understand that legal documents can be complex. It's advisable that you discuss your consent order with a solicitor or even ask your solicitor to draft the consent order for you to ensure that your consent order accurately reflects your intentions and protects your rights and interests.
What is a ‘clean break’ consent order?
A ‘clean break’ consent order is normally used to describe a consent order where all that’s being ordered is a clean break. A ‘clean break’ consent order aims to sever the financial ties between the couple, allowing them to move forward without ongoing financial obligations or claims against each other.
What is the consent order fee?
For a financial consent order cost can vary but in England and Wales is £53. However, please note that fees and regulations may change over time. To make sure you have the latest information, visit the government website or speak to a legal professional regarding the fees for a consent order for divorce or dissolution.
How long does a consent order take to be approved?
The time it takes for a consent order to be approved can range from a few days to several weeks or even months, depending on the court's workload, the complexity of the case, and any potential revisions or clarifications required.
A service designed for couples who are in total agreement on their financial split and who want a legally binding consent order setting out their agreement, protecting both people from future claims (a clean break).
One of the biggest (and most confusing) assets to sort out when you separate is your pensions. Read our guide on how to sort out your pensions when you divorce or separate.
A big consideration when you separate is how to sort out any property you own. Every separation is different, but the tips below are a good place to start and will hopefully save you time, money and hassle.