When a divorcing couple makes a consent order, it is to finalise a voluntary divorce financial settlement agreement made by them. The purpose of a financial consent order is to be final, with the lasting decision being approved by the court. However, this doesn’t always mean that divorced parties adhere to the order, nor that it will still apply later down the line.
There are many reasons why a consent order may no longer reside with you or your circumstances, often prompting the question of whether you can change your consent order to be more suitable. You may feel that you were negatively influenced into a decision by your ex-spouse, or perhaps your circumstances have significantly changed since the order was signed.
Here, we discuss what a consent order is, what’s included in the order, if it is possible to change a financial consent order, how a consent order can be changed and whether a solicitor’s assistance is required.
What is a consent order?
A consent order is a legally binding agreement stating how a divorcing couple’s finances will be split following the divorce. The divorcing spouses will present the court with a voluntary divorce financial settlement to which they have amicably agreed. Should it be approved, the consent order makes their agreement legally binding. But before this decision is made, the court will check it meets the needs of both parties and does not impact any children of the marriage.
While a consent order is not necessarily needed for a divorcing couple, without one, a divorced couple will still be financially linked. The financial consent order provides protection over their finances and prevents any claims from coming forward in the future.
Can a consent order be amended?
Put simply, a consent order cannot usually be amended. However, once the court has approved a consent order, there is a 21 day window of time where the divorced couple may be able to appeal the order, but there are only very limited circumstances where the court will approve the appeal.
What’s included in a consent order?
To summarise, a consent order will contain the same information as agreed upon in your voluntary financial settlement.
- Property, including the family home and overseas property
- Personal possessions
- Financial support, such as child maintenance and spousal maintenance payments
What are the grounds for challenging or appealing a consent order?
If there is concern that a recently approved consent order does not reflect your circumstances, you may be able to apply to the court to appeal the consent order. In most circumstances, challenging or appealing a financial consent order is highly discouraged by the courts unless there is a significant reason that makes the changes a necessity.
For a financial consent order appeal to proceed, the party seeking changes to the order must present grounds for challenging it and present a clear argument and evidence to support their claim. Without this, the court is likely to reject the amendments to the order.
Examples of eligible grounds for challenging a consent order include:
- Non-disclosure of relevant facts, for example, where your spouse did not properly disclose their financial position
- Fraud & misrepresentation, for example, where the value of a disclosed asset was incorrect
- Barder event & significant change in circumstances, for example, where something happened meaning the consent order no longer represents you and can be considered as unworkable or unfair
- Undue influence, such as being influenced into a decision
How do you change a consent order?
If there is a legitimate reason as to why a consent order needs appealing, the process of appealing a consent order will include submitting an application to the original court that approved the order, asking to appeal it.
The process of applying to the court for changes to be implemented includes submitting a form, which will need to be accompanied by a statement that sets out the changes you propose and proof of non-disclosure, fraud, misrepresentation, undue influence or material change of circumstances since the order was originally entered.
In certain cases, the court may require the applicant and their ex-spouse to attend a hearing where the proposed changes and submitted evidence will be discussed.
Before submitting the order to the court, it is wise to speak to your ex-spouse about the changes you wish to propose and negotiate suitable amendments. The reason for this is that the court is not likely to make changes unless both parties agree to them. They must also ensure all parties’ needs are met and that the order does not implicate any children.
Do you need a solicitor to change a consent order?
There is nothing to suggest that appealing a consent order can be done without the assistance of a solicitor. However, if you think that you have grounds to challenge your consent order, it is highly encouraged to seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity for guidance on how to proceed.
Choosing an experienced solicitor can prove invaluable. They will take the time to carefully understand your situation, assess your circumstances and advise you on whether you have grounds to change your consent order.
Should it be determined that your situation is eligible, your solicitor will guide you through the entire process, including carrying out negotiations with your ex-spouse, applying to court and correctly filling out the relevant forms. Should a hearing be required, they will provide a solid representation, providing you with the best chance of success.
Get in touch with our financial consent order specialists in Bristol and Bath
To arrange an initial meeting with our divorce financial consent order solicitors in Bath and Bristol, whether that be in person or electronically, please give us a call or use our simple online enquiry form to request a call back.