What are the risks of an informal agreement upon divorce, and how can you protect yourself? We take a look at the importance of consent orders.
Why it is vital to obtain a Consent Order dealing with financial arrangements made on divorce
It is a positive result when divorcing couples are able to reach financial agreement outside of the courts, particularly where the negotiations were amicable.
However, many couples stop there and do not consider applying to the courts for formal approval of their agreement (known as a “consent order”). This can leave you vulnerable if your relationship or circumstances change at a later date. What many people do not realise is that even a concluded divorce only ends the legal status of their married relationship. It does not end the financial claims which arise out of it.
Whilst both parties may truly intend to adhere to their financial agreement, and many in fact continue to do so, there are unfortunately occasions where one party wishes to go back on that agreement at a later date and will apply to the family courts for more money. We have been involved in cases where such an application has been made many years after the divorce took place; including over a decade later. A recent reported case saw such a claim made 23 years after the divorce. This can come as a shock and is understandably both confusing and upsetting, particularly where you thought matters had been settled.
What are the risks involved?
The risk is that, if financial proceedings are issued, the family court may determine that the matrimonial assets should have been divided differently to your original agreement, which can leave you vulnerable to having to pay more money to your former spouse. This can potentially put your current assets, built up since your divorce, at risk.
Applying for a formal consent order does not need to cause dispute or animosity, it is simply giving both parties security in respect of the financial agreement they have willingly reached on or since their divorce. Nor does it require the parties to go anywhere near the court building or the Judges. Family solicitors are best placed to help with obtaining court approval of your agreements.
Taking that extra step is important. A court order, formally approving your financial agreement, finalises arrangements between the parties for good, and offers both parties protection against further financial proceedings.
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