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What is a divorce clean break order and what does it mean for you?

If you’re in the midst of a divorce, it can already be challenging enough without bringing a financial aspect into the mix. Dividing up your assets with your former partner can be a long, complicated, and even painful process, but a clean break order can simplify this process and make it easier to organise your financial life following your divorce.

In effect, a clean break order is a financial statement that official severs all economic ties between you and your partner. Not only does it sever your finances, but it also protects both parties from financial claims on future assets. For some – especially those dealing with an unpleasant divorce – a clean break order can offer peace of mind and financial security. 

However, severing all finances isn’t suitable for all couples, and some – especially those who share assets or who share dependent children – might struggle to completely separate all financial obligations to one another. 

In this article, we’re going to explain more about what a clean break order is, the benefits and disadvantages of a clean break settlement, and whether or not this option might be right for you and your ex-spouse.  

What is a clean break financial order?

While a final order (aka the finalisation of your divorce) confirms that you’re no longer married to your former partner, it does not end your financial obligations to one another. Many former couples find themselves tied up in the court system for months or even years at a time trying to reach a financial settlement post-separation. Financial disputes can end up prolonging the length of your divorce significantly, impacting your health and wellbeing, and sending both parties’ legal fees soaring as a result.

One way to avoid this is by opting for a clean break order: a clean break order is effectively an official severing of all financial ties to your former partner. This means that the court has no say over the division of property, income, savings, and any other assets that you may share, and this is instead decided by you and your former partner. The court may, however, reject your application if it appears unfair, or if your application fails to meet the court’s requirements. 

A clean break financial order also protects both parties from future claims on future assets. Technically, a partner can make a financial claim against you decades later if your financial situation changes – for example, due to inheritance or personal success. Obtaining a clean break order protects you from such claims.

A clean break order can be obtained when both partners give a statement to the court stating that a financial settlement has been reached privately, and once the court confirms – or “seals” – this agreement, it is legally binding. This means that once the clean break order is finalised, neither party is able to make a financial claim against their former partner, and all financial ties are officially severed.

However, not all couples will be able to apply for a clean break order. Read on to see if you’re eligible to apply for a clean break order, or if you’ll need to apply for a consent order instead.

Divorce Clean Break Order

Obtaining a clean break order during the divorce process

So, how can you obtain a clean break order while your divorce is ongoing, and what happens if you don’t get one?

Who can get one?

In general, a clean break order is ideal for couples who don’t share any assets, and who don’t have any children together. While each case is different and will be reviewed by the court, the best candidates for a clean break order are those who can simply leave their marriage without being significantly impacted financially. 

Couples who have always kept their finances separate may also be eligible, although do note that a clean break order is not possible if there are any dependent children in the picture. If you have children, you’ll need to apply for a consent order, which we’ll explain further on.

How to get one

If you want to obtain a clean break order, you’ll need to apply for it via the court. You can only apply for it once a Conditional Order (previously known as a decree nisi) has been issued. 

Your solicitor will need to draw up your financial settlement, before sending it to the court for approval. You’ll want to ensure that the agreed settlement meets both the court’s requirements and meets your own financial needs. If your application is granted, it will be put into effect immediately, effectively barring both parties from making any types of financial claims against their former partner now and in the future

What happens if you don’t get one?

If you don’t apply for one, or if your application is rejected by the court, you may be vulnerable to future financial claims from your former partner. This can occur no matter how long you’ve been divorced, as divorce itself does not end your financial commitments towards one another.  

Put simply, a clean break financial order is a protective measure against any claims against future assets, windfall, inheritance and income. Without it, you may find yourself back in court to settle or update financial agreements whenever your financial situation changes.

However, you can still protect your future assets. If the court rejects your application, or if you have too many shared assets, you can instead apply for a consent order with a ‘clean break’ clause. 

A consent order is the name of the document that legally defines your financial settlement between you and your former partner. This is the ideal option if you want to sever financial ties but share dependent children or financial obligations towards one another (therefore making it impossible to obtain a clean break order.) A consent order binds your financial agreement legally, but it’s up to you and your former partner to set its terms. 

Once a fair settlement has been reached between both parties, you will be able to add a clean break clause to the agreement. This will protect your future assets from claims while maintaining any established spousal or child support payments laid out in your financial settlement.

Benefits and Disadvantages of a Clean Break Order

Will a judge approve our financial consent order?

Like any aspect of the divorce process, there are many pros and cons to obtaining a clean break financial order:

The Benefits 

No further financial negotiations 

One of the most common reasons couples settle on this option is because it ends the constant negotiation regarding financial matters. Once the order has been “sealed” (approved) by the court, both you and your former partners’ finances are legally considered completely separate, so there will be no going back and forth in the future to the court to settle financial matters. 

Your future assets are protected 

Once a clean break has been approved, it is legally binding and covers both your current financial assets, as well as any future income. This is particularly beneficial if you expect your income to change (for example, via inheritance, a growing business, or any other type of financial windfall.) Knowing that your current assets and future assets are protected offers security and peace of mind – you know that you won’t be dragged back and forth to court whenever – or if ever – your financial circumstances change. 

Speeds up your divorce

One of the quickest ways to speed up your divorce is to separate your finances independently; many couples spend months – or even years – going back and forth to court to settle financial agreements. In fact, not having a financial agreement in place is one of the most common reasons for a prolonged or lengthy divorce. This can take even longer if children are involved, and couples might often find it easier to reach an agreement themselves rather than let the court make these important decisions for them. 

Save money on legal fees

Many couples end up spending thousands of pounds trying to get the best post-divorce financial settlement. A clean break order allows each party to agree to sever financial ties completely, cutting back on solicitors fees and achieving a quicker divorce in the process. 

The Drawbacks

While a clean break order can simplify your divorce proceedings and make it easier for you to protect your assets, it’s not always the easiest option. Here are a few drawbacks many couples experience when obtaining a clean break order:

Can be difficult to achieve for longer marriages

If you’ve been married for a long time, it can be slightly more difficult to achieve a clean break order. The longer you’ve been married, the more likely you are to share a number of financial assets (such as homes, cars, investments and joint savings accounts). Dividing these up can take time, and rushing through a clean break order won’t always be possible. In this case, you’ll need to apply for a consent order. 

Ongoing financial commitments make it difficult to get one

Most divorced couples, despite being legally separated, will continue to maintain financial obligations to one another after their divorce (such as child maintenance or spousal maintenance), making a total severing of all finances quite difficult. If one spouse continues to have ongoing financial obligations towards their former partner, this also makes a clean break order impossible. Instead, you’d need to apply for a consent order. 

Having children from the marriage can further complicate things

If you have children, achieving a clean break order is impossible. This is because one parent (typically the non-custodial parent) will be obliged to pay a form of child maintenance (often referred to as child support) to their former partner following their divorce. If you have children together, you’ll need to have your solicitor draft up a consent order with a clean break clause included – this will allow you to maintain your financial obligations towards your former spouse while protecting future assets from claims.

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Key Takeaways

  • In general, a clean break order is best suited to couples who don’t share any assets and don’t have any dependent children together. 
  • If you plan to pay spousal maintenance or child maintenance payments following your divorce, a clean break financial order won’t be possible. 
  • You can’t obtain a clean break order until you’ve obtained a Conditional Order from the court (formerly known as a Decree Nisi.)
  • If you have sizable shared assets or children from your marriage, a clean break order isn’t going to be possible; you’ll need a consent order to protect your future assets and sever financial ties.

A clean break order can be a simple way to cut financial ties with your former partner and protect yourself from future claims on any windfall, business success, or inheritance. Even if you have dependent children or maintain financial obligations to your former spouse, applying for a clean break clause as part of your consent order will allow you to fully separate your current and future finances as you rebuild your life. A third party, such as Easy Online Divorce, will handle all paperwork and legal proceedings to ensure that you can get your clean break order in place as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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