A Consent Order can only be made by agreement (i.e. with consent) – it’s in the name. So if your ex-spouse won’t sign up to your proposed agreement, then there is no agreement and therefore no consent order. There are, however, further steps you can take to try and break the deadlock and come to an agreement which suits both parties

What happens if there is no Consent Order?

Until a financial order is made (ideally a Consent Order, and perhaps even better a Clean Break Consent Order) all of your ex-spouse’s financial claims against you remain open. They will stay open for as long as a financial order is not made, which could be forever! That means that your ex-spouse could make a financial claim against you 10 years later – obviously, that is not a comfortable place to be.

Often separating couples want their finances dealt with now, but they cannot reach an agreement. If that happens one of them will start Court proceedings and eventually a Court will make a final decision; a bit like the final ‘Consent Order’, but without the ‘consent’ part. It is likely that if a Judge does have to make a final order then that order will contain at least some parts that you do not like (as well as some parts that your ex-spouse doesn’t like). That is one of the reasons why people try to reach an overall agreement with their ex and get a Consent Order, as at least is something they signed up to and therefore believe they can live with.

There are many other good reasons for reaching an agreement and so getting a Consent Order.

For example, Court proceedings from the start to the final hearing can take 10–12 months, which can feel like a very long time. During this period, you will not be able to put the divorce finances behind you and have the certainty of knowing what is yours going forward.

Another good reason, perhaps even the best reason, is that it will be extremely difficult for a normal person to navigate their way through a year of financial litigation without paying for lawyers. – Full litigation would include a contested final hearing where evidence is submitted, witnesses are cross-examined, and submissions on the law are made to a Judge. The cost of having lawyers throughout a set of financial proceedings from the beginning to the very end will run into tens, for some people even hundreds, of thousands of pounds.

What can I do if my ex-spouse won’t sign the Consent Order?

We have already explained that a Consent Order can only be reached by agreement, so you cannot force your ex-spouse to sign up to a Consent Order: he or she has to agree.

If your ex-spouse won’t sign up to an agreement, ask yourself what parts of the agreement they object to and what they want instead (or even better, ask him or her). Then have a think about the differences between you and see if it is possible to compromise on them. By doing that, you are only doing what a Judge would be doing at the end of long and emotionally/financially expensive litigation. In general terms, if you both feel a bit unhappy about the agreement you reached, its probably about right, with compromises on both sides.

Keep in mind that there is no single ‘right’ in family law, and there’s always two valid sides to every story. (If you can’t see that right now, in the heat of the split/divorce, you’ll definitely have come to understand it by the time you’ve been through 10-12 months of litigation).

The Family Court is not about ‘justice’, it’s about dividing the assets between two people who probably hoped never to need a divorce court. Normally these assets are not enough to meet everyone’s ‘needs’ meaning both sides are financially worse off than they were before and have to make do with less. No-one gets everything they want in financial divorce proceedings. Keep all of that in mind, and it might be easier to make that compromise.

As a final thought, think about all of the money that you will spend on lawyers if you don’t reach an agreement. It will be better to give at least half of that to your ex-spouse (or reduce the amount you are asking for by that sum) than waste the whole amount on lawyers and then have less to divide between you anyway.

Be flexible, be open to compromise, and bear in mind that there is never one single right answer but always a range of outcomes that a Court might possibly come to.