Many of our clients come to us wanting a ‘clean break’ from their spouse when they divorce. Separating from a partner can be a difficult and stressful time and the temptation to walk away without any remaining ties to that person, particularly when there are no children involved, can be great.
Seeking legal advice in order to understand exactly what a clean break order is and what it would mean for your circumstances, is essential.
In this article, we will take a closer look clean break consent orders and discuss why they can be so important.
When a financial settlement is reached between you and your spouse, you can ask a judge to make this legally binding. This is known as a consent order.
A consent order contains information regarding the terms of your financial settlement, such as who will get the house and the details of any maintenance. A clean break order is something that can be included in a to dismiss yours and your spouse’s rights to financial claims against each other in the future.
It’s important that your consent order is drawn up by a solicitor with experience in this area of law.
Normally, it won’t be necessary to go to court to get a consent order, as long as you provide enough information for the judge to make a decision on your order and both you and your spouse have legal representation.
If a judge does not think your consent order is fair, they could change your consent order or make a new court order.
A clean break consent order is generally seen as a good thing, as both parties can move on without financial obligations towards each other. However, it is not always possible, or advisable, to have a clean break from your spouse.
If you don’t have a clean break consent order, your spouse could go back to court at a later date and ask for more money from you if, for example, you win the lottery or receive money through an inheritance.
One of the most famous cases was involving clean break orders has to be that of EuroMillions winner Nigel Page.
Mr Page had been separated from his former wife for 10 years, when he won over £50 million on the lottery. He and his ex-wife did not have a clean break clause when they divorced. This had serious financial implications for Mr Page, as in the end, it was reported that he made an out-of-court settlement of £2 million to his former spouse.
This case highlights the importance of clean break consent orders upon divorce.
Another case which underlines the importance of reaching a financial settlement and getting this made into a legally binding order, is that of Wyatt v Vince.
After meeting and marrying in 1981, Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince parted ways in the mid-eighties, before eventually divorcing in 1992.
Ms Wyatt already had a child before she met Mr Vince and they also had a child together during their relationship.
After they separated, Mr Vince, who was described as a “former New Age traveller”, later went on to set up a successful company, which in 2016 was reportedly worth “at least” £57 million. More than 25 years after they’d separated, Ms Wyatt made an application to the courts for financial orders, including a lump sum.
Eventually, in 2016, Ms Wyatt was reportedly awarded a £300,000 lump sum payment.
This case emphasises the importance of dealing with financial matters upon divorce and shows why an informal agreement is often not enough.
may result in the door being left open for your spouse to make a financial claim against you in the future, long after you divorce.
If you are getting a divorce and haven’t done so already, we highly recommend that you seek advice from a solicitor.
Seeking legal advice about whether a clean break consent order is suitable for your circumstances is essential. Clean break orders may not be appropriate for every divorcing couple.
Sometimes, for example, it may be necessary for either you or your spouse to make maintenance payments.
This does not necessarily mean that there can be no clean break, as you may be able to look into the possibility of a deferred clean break. This is a type of order that says that a clean break will happen when certain things come to pass, such as, for example, your child finishing their education.
Equally, instead of maintenance, some couples opt for a lump sum payment, as a clean break is wanted.
Clean break consent orders may not be in your best interests. If, for example you believe that your spouse may get a much better paid job in the not-too-distant future, a clean break order may not be a good idea for you.
This is why it is essential to talk through your options with an experienced solicitor.
Coming to an agreement about how you will split any assets and investments upon divorce can often be the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of the divorce process.
When you hear about divorce battles taking many months or even years, it is likely that it is the finances and how to separate them, that the couple is having difficulty reaching an agreement about.
For couples who are struggling to come to an agreement, there are various different options open to them:
When a relationship ends, emotions can run high and conversations can all too easily turn into arguments.
Some couples can and do reach an agreement on how they will split their finances without any outside help. Even if this is the case, it is always a good idea to seek advice from a solicitor to ensure that you have not missed anything.
For many couples, it is simply not possible to reach an agreement between themselves.
Solicitor to solicitor negotiation is the process by which yours and your spouse’s respective solicitors negotiate your settlement with each other, under your instruction.
Mediation, where an independent third party aids discussions between you and your spouse, is one of the most well-known processes that many couples use to help them to come to an agreement about how their finances will be split upon divorce.
The mediation process can also be used to help you come to an agreement about other issues, such as where your children will live when you divorce.
It’s worth noting here that in most cases, it will be necessary to go to a meeting about mediation if you can’t reach an agreement about your financial settlement with your spouse and need to ask a court to do this for you. However, there are some exceptions to this, such as when domestic abuse is involved.
Collaborative law, where four-way meetings take place between you, your spouse and your respective solicitors, can help some couples to reach an agreement about their financial settlement. This can be much less costly than going to court.
If you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse about your financial settlement, you may need to go to court to ask a judge to decide for you. However, this should only ever be a last resort, as taking your case to court can be both time-consuming and costly.
If you and your spouse do agree on the terms of your financial settlement, you can ask a court to approve your clean break consent order (see above).
If you and you spouse are unable to come to an agreement about what your financial settlement will look like, you could ask the courts to make a financial order.
Previously, this was known as an ancillary relief order.
Financial orders include information such as any maintenance payments or pension sharing arrangements.
Obtaining legal advice from a solicitor as early on as possible in the divorce process, can help you to gain a better understanding of what your financial settlement could look like. This can not only assist in putting your mind at rest but can also inform you of how best to begin negotiations with your spouse.
There is a common misconception that if a couple are divorcing with little or no assets, there is no need to get any kind of court order with regards to the financial side of things.
However, if you walk away without any kind of legally binding order with regards to your finances, you may be putting yourself at risk of financial claims from your ex-spouse, if you come into money in the future.
The case involving Nigel Page, discussed above, is a good example of this, as it highlights the importance of clean break clauses.
As specialist divorce solicitors, we are often asked whether it is really necessary to apply to the courts for them to approve a consent order or a clean break order. However, it is important to remember that without a legally binding consent order or clean break order, you could be putting yourself at risk of financial claims from your spouse in the future, particularly if they don’t remarry.
As we mentioned above, a clean break upon divorce may not be suitable for everyone.
For advice regarding your particular circumstances, it is important to speak to a solicitor experienced in this area of law.
It is worth noting there that there cannot be a clean break to dismiss all future financial claims between a parent and a child.
There are some very limited occasions, such as fraud or an “intervening event”, when a consent order or clean break order can be overturned in the future.
If your spouse didn’t disclose all of his or her assets, a consent order could be overturned.
With more and more people opting for DIY divorces, without seeking any legal advice, it is all too easy to neglect getting your agreed financial settlement made into a legally binding order upon divorce.
The divorce process, particularly the financial side of things, can be highly complex. Seeking independent advice from a solicitor can help you to ensure that you are not leaving yourself open to financial claims by your ex-spouse in the future.
Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to clean break consent orders, including:
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