Is a Decree Absolute Enough in Divorce?

20 March 2018

A Decree Absolute is issued when a divorce has been finalised and the marriage has legally ended. However, the Decree Absolute does not end all the financial commitments between the couple. To fully resolve all financial matters in divorce, a Consent Order will be required from the Court.

How the Divorce Process Works

The divorce process in England and Wales begins with one person filing a divorce petition, giving the grounds for divorce, and ends when the Decree Absolute is issued. The Decree Absolute is the final stage of divorce, which officially brings the marriage to an end.

The divorce process typically takes 6 months from start to end. This can vary depending on a number of factors, including whether both of the people getting divorced co-operate speedily within the process.

A Decree Absolute Doesn’t Finalise Everything

A common misunderstanding is that there is nothing more that needs to be resolved from a legal perspective once the final stage of the divorce has been completed and the Decree Absolute has been issued. However, the Decree Absolute only ends the marriage, it doesn’t end the financial commitments between the couple.

If the divorcing couple don't have valuable assets at the time of their separation, or they have already divided their assets by selling the family home and sharing the sale proceeds, they may feel that everything has been taken care of.

However, either person might still be able to make a successful financial claim against the other in the future, even if it’s for wealth that was acquired after the marriage had ended. In order to end the financial commitments between a divorcing couple, it’s necessary to obtain a Consent Order.

What is a Consent Order?

When finalising a divorce, most Divorce Solicitors will advise their clients that they should obtain a Consent Order on all possible financial claims connected to the marriage. This will resolve any ongoing financial issues between the couple and prohibit either person from making a financial claim against the other in the future.

The Consent Order offers protection to both people by recording the terms of the financial settlement that has been agreed between the couple, on a full and final basis. It can document how matrimonial assets have already been divided, or it can provide for these to be divided in the near future, or both.

Why is the Consent Order So Important?

Without the Consent Order, neither person has a financial clean break from the other in legal terms. This means that one person could potentially make a successful financial claim against the other in the future on the basis of their previous marriage.

Essentially the Consent Order stops either person from being able to come back after the divorce has been finalised and make an unexpected claim for money, including a share of the other person’s pension or income.

If there are ongoing financial matters between the couple, such as spousal maintenance, then these arrangements can still continue and be adjusted as appropriate. However, all other financial matters between the couple will become final.

How are Consent Orders Obtained?

The Consent Order is written by a Divorce Solicitor and it will state how the couple have agreed to divide their finances. Once it has been completed, the Consent Order is then sent to a Judge at Court.

The divorcing couple would not normally have to attend Court themselves, providing they have agreed a settlement either by direct negotiation, Solicitor negotiation or with the benefit of support services such as Mediation.

The Judge will check that the agreement is fair and reasonable by reviewing a summary of the couple’s current finances. If the Judge is satisfied, the document will be stamped with a Court seal and returned to both people through their Divorce Solicitors.

The couple will then have the certainty that all financial matters between them have been resolved, and they can move on from their divorce, as far as related financial claims are concerned.

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