2022 saw the introduction of no fault divorces, as well as the online system through which a couple can apply for a divorce together, or on their own. This has led to many more people choosing the ‘Do It Yourself’ route to separation. Couples are often able to reach an agreement on their own and implement its terms without encountering any dispute between them; however this does not mean that the agreement is final or binding. This can only be done through a consent order.
What is a consent order?
A consent order is a record of an agreement which has been reached. It is a legally binding document sealed by the court that reflects the terms of an agreement reached between parties in divorce proceedings. In practice this means the parties have reached an agreement on how their assets will be divided and solicitors have written up the agreement, using specific legal terms, ensuring that the parties’ claims against each other are dealt with and dismissed, if appropriate. There are generally four sections to a consent order; the definitions, recitals, undertakings and orders. They can be brief or in-depth depending on the complexity of the agreement reached and the assets to be divided.
How to apply for a consent order in a divorce?
There must be existing divorce proceedings for which the court has given a case number; either the old style that begins with two letters for the location of the court, two numbers indicating the year that the proceedings were issued and a ‘D’ for divorce proceedings; or the new style 16 digit case number. Since April 2022, consent orders are submitted to court using the online court portal and dealt with by an administrative judge. An email notification is sent to both parties when the order has been approved and a sealed order can then be downloaded.
When should you apply for a consent order?
If you have reached an agreement with your spouse over the financial assets of the marriage then you should confirm how these are to be divided using a consent order. Even if one party is keeping all of the assets, the decision should still be confirmed in an order as the important part is how the claims arising from being married are dealt with; if they are not formally dismissed, they continue and the parties can issue claims against each other in future. For divorces issued prior to April 2022, decree nisi must have been pronounced for a consent order to be granted. For post-April 2022 divorces, it must have reached the conditional order stage, which can be applied for 20 weeks after proceedings have been initially issued.
How long does it take to get a consent order?
Once the parties have reached an agreement, this can be presented to solicitors to reflect the terms in a consent order. The order is then signed by both parties and an accompanying court form, called the ‘Statement of Information’, is prepared to summarise the parties’ financial circumstances both before the order is granted and afterwards. This is so the Judge can ascertain whether the agreement is fair in all the circumstances. Once the consent order is approved and sealed by the Judge, the consent order will be sent by post to both parties involved. How long it takes for the order to be approved depends on the court’s workload but is on average between 2 to 4 weeks.
After decree absolute, the consent order is arguably the most important document in divorce proceedings which deal with financial assets. This records any agreement reached, how the claims arising upon marriage have been dealt with and most importantly, dismissed those claims.