Consent Orders Explained

Author:
Maya Bhatiani
Senior Associate Solicitor, Family Law and Divorce
Date:
09/12/2019

Many people presume that Family Law proceedings occur when two people can’t reach an agreement and have to go to Court to get a Judge to make a decision for them.

But, if you and your former partner can come to an agreement, you won’t need to go to Court and you can use a Consent Order. A Consent Order details the agreement you’ve come to and can be used in the majority of Court Proceedings under the Children Act, Matrimonial Causes Act and Family Law Act.

For initial advice get in touch with our Family Law Solicitors.

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What is a Consent Order?

A Consent Order is an Order drafted by a Family Law Solicitor. It will be drafted in the same format as a Court Order, but it will confirm that you and your former partner agreed ‘by consent’.

One of the biggest differences between a Court Order and a Consent Order is that a Court Order is drafted immediately after a hearing. This will reflect exactly what took place during the hearing. A Consent Order is drafted to reflect what you and your former partner have agreed. It will outline the key agreements reached which relate to your finances and/or your children.

Once you’re both happy with the contents of the Consent Order, you’ll both sign and date it. The signed version will be given to the Court for a Judge to approve it. This step makes sure it’s reasonable and fair for both of you.

When can a Consent Order be Used?

Consent Orders can be used in Divorce Financial Proceedings, proceedings relating to Children or in Family Law Act proceedings. A Consent Order can only be used an agreement has been reached and they want the Court to formally approve and seal the Consent Order.

Because a Consent Order is intended to formalise the agreements reached, a Consent Order can be filed with the Court at the start of Court proceedings (along with an application to the Court), or at any stage during the proceedings when an agreement has been reached.

The Court will welcome a Consent Order, as it shows that everyone involved has made every effort to compromise, which saves the Court’s time and resources and also saves you and your former partner money and time.  

For a Consent Order to be approved by the Court, it needs sufficient detail. That means that you and your former partner have to reach agreement on all relevant details. This will makes sure that the Court is satisfied that the Consent Order is suitable and will work in practice.

If the necessary details cannot be agreed, the Consent Order may not be filed with the Court. But it’s worth noting that if the majority of the points are settled, a Consent Order may still be beneficial. This is because the Court will then only need to consider the points in dispute at the hearing.

You should always get legal advice from a Family Law Solicitor when agreeing a Consent Order. This will make sure that you get the best legal protection and ensure that all relevant legal principles are included.

You should also know that an Order produced at a Court hearing can also be made ‘by consent’. This simply means that you and your former partner agreed on certain points and these are confirmed within the Order to make it clear for you, your former partner and for the Court and for any future hearings.

How to Get a Consent Order

Filing a Consent Order with the Court may cancel any upcoming hearings and could mean the proceedings conclude early. This can save you and your former partner a lot of money as you probably won’t need a Barrister at Court. You’ll also save money on your Solicitor’s fees.

It’s important to note that with child proceedings, the Court may want to ensure that the necessary initial checks have been completed on you and your former partner and that there’s no risk of harm to the child. This could mean that you need to liaise with a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officer to complete the relevant checks before the Judge will approve the Consent Order.

In addition, the Court could have questions about the Consent Order and could list a hearing to ask these questions before approving the Order, or raise them in writing with you and your former partner. The Court will only approve and seal the Consent Order once it’s satisfied with the answers.

The Court will consider the Consent Order objectively and will only approve the Order if they are satisfied it is ‘fair and reasonable’ in Financial Settlements and in the best interests of the child in relation to Children Act proceedings. If, they’re not sure, they may list a hearing to clarify these points.

You will need to pay a £50 fee to the Court to get a Consent Order sealed. Once approved, a Consent Order is legally binding in England and Wales. This means that you can apply to the Court to have the Order enforced if it has been breached. This does work both ways. If you breach the Order, your former partner can ask the Court to enforce it.

Do I Need a Family Solicitor to Make a Consent Order?

Using a Family Solicitor when producing a Consent Order can really help you to make sure you know what you are entitled to and insert all the relevant clauses so you get the best protection possible.

At the very least, make sure you get legal advice on the draft Order and ask a Family Law Solicitor to review it before it goes to the Court.

Getting the correct legal advice will mean that it’s less likely that you and your former partner will have to return to Court in the future, have a disagreement over the Order or come up against a technicality that the Court needs clarification on.

If you are getting a divorce, the Consent Order should be viewed as an essential part of the divorce, as well as the Decree Absolute. For more information see What is a Consent Order in Divorce?

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