What is a consent order? The legal jargon free guide

A consent order is a legally binding document that sets out the financial arrangements you and your ex have come to. It details how you’re going to split any assets, debts, pension, and income you have once you’re divorced. It is legally binding which means it will protect you both if anyone tries to change their minds in future. It often has what is called a ‘clean break clause’ in it which protects the money or assets that you may earn or receive in the future (for example, pensions, inheritance, lottery wins or future earnings) from being claimed by your ex.

Most people are surprised to learn that a divorce doesn’t end the financial relationship with your ex. So, if you get divorced and don’t get a consent order your ex can still make financial claims against you in the future (even after many years have passed).

Here’s how consent orders work:

  • What information is needed to complete a consent order?

There are two parts to a consent order – First you will need to complete a Statement of Information or D81 – 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 pension (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)

The other document you will need to submit is the consent order itself. This is not normally a document you can draft yourself instead it should be properly drafted by a trained person as it will need to include certain legal clauses. You and your ex will have to decide how you will split your finances in a fair way. You can get advice on how to do this in this blog or by speaking to an amicable Divorce Coach.

The consent order sets out what you would like to happen to the assets you’ve listed in the D81. It may include what will happen to property, assets, debts, and pensions. Things like child and spousal maintenance and lump sums that’ll be transferred between you will also need to be recorded. It will also set out a timetable for when payments will be made, or assets 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 order.

You will also need for fill out a Form A (an administrative document that allows you to apply for the consent order) and if you are sharing a pension, then you will also need to complete a pension sharing annex or P1 form.

  • Who decides whether our consent order is fair?

The law does not have a defined formula for dividing assets. To make fair agreements between you, you must think about what the courts in England & Wales take into consideration: income, earning capacity and property needs as well as financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities. The starting pointing is a 50/50 split. But if one of you has a greater need, for example, because you are housing the children or earn a lot less, then the split may differ. You can make any agreement you like between yourselves (an informal arrangement) but if you want the court to seal a consent order and make it legally binding then a judge will have the final say on whether your agreement is fair in the eyes of the law. Our divorce coaches are specially trained  to help you make a fair agreement

  • How long does it take?

This really depends on how organised you both are in gathering your financial information e.g. your pension CETV (which can take up t 12 weeks) and negotiating a settlement. Let’s say you’re completely agreed upon how you want to split things and have all the right information, you should allow six months at minimum for the consent order to be sealed by a judge.

  • Can you get a consent order without being divorced?

No. You will need to be a Decree Nisi stage of the divorce process before you can submit a consent order to the courts. It usually takes about 12 weeks to get to Nisi stage, so its worth considering getting started on the divorce and using the time it takes the court to process your petition to collect your financial information and negotiate a settlement.

  • 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 need to be included.

amicable offers a fixed-price consent order writing service and help from divorce coaches who can help you to negotiate a fair financial split. For information on how we can help, book a free 15-minute advice call here.

Hannah Hodgkinson is Head of Marketing at amicable. Hannah has over six years experience working for global NGOs and private consultancies and has a passion for marketing for companies with a social purpose.

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