What is a Clean Break Agreement?

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Understanding clean break orders

Going through a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership can present many challenges for the couple in question. Many people wish for the process to go as smoothly as possible, and one way to ensure that is to obtain a clean break order. 

A clean break agreement typically refers to a legal arrangement made between divorcing or separating spouses to resolve their financial affairs without ongoing financial ties. It’s a legally binding agreement that aims to definitively separate the financial responsibilities of both parties, allowing them to move forward with their lives independently.

Key features of a clean break financial agreement include:

  • It outlines how assets, debts, and other financial matters will be divided between the parties involved. This may involve one party paying a lump sum to the other party before severing financial ties.
  • Once the agreement is finalised and approved by the Court, both parties are usually released from any future financial obligations and claims against each other. This means neither party can seek financial support from the other in the future, except in specific circumstances such as child maintenance.
  • It provides closure for both parties, allowing them to sever financial ties and move on with their lives separately.
  • Clean break agreements are often encouraged by courts as they promote finality and reduce the potential for future disputes. However, they must be fair and reasonable to both parties for the Court to approve them.

If you are looking for more information on obtaining a clean break agreement, then it is important you speak to a specialist legal professional with experience in this area of the law. Discussing your case with a family law solicitor ensures your rights and assets are protected and that the agreement is legally sound. 

Obtaining a clean break agreement

Obtaining a clean break agreement typically involves several steps, including negotiation, documentation, and legal approval. Here’s a general outline of the process:

  • Legal Advice: It’s highly recommended for both parties to seek independent legal advice from solicitors specialising in family law before looking to achieve a clean break order. A solicitor can provide guidance on your rights, obligations, and the fairness of the proposed agreement. They can also help you understand the legal implications of the agreement and ensure that your interests are protected.
  • Negotiation: The first step is for both parties to agree to obtain a clean break order and negotiate the terms of the clean break agreement. This involves discussions about how assets, debts, and other financial matters will be divided. It’s essential for both parties to be open and honest during this process to reach a fair and reasonable agreement.
  • Drafting the Agreement/Consent Order: A clean break order is also known as a “Consent Order.” Your solicitor will help draft this document, which is a Court Order outlining the agreed-upon financial arrangements. The agreement should be comprehensive and cover all relevant financial matters, including property division, pensions, maintenance, and any other financial assets or liabilities.
  • Submit the Consent Order to Court: The Consent Order needs to be submitted to the Court for approval. This can be done online or through your local family court. Along with the Consent Order, you’ll need to provide a D81 Form, which is a statement of information about your financial situation. A family law solicitor can assist in drafting the form and sending it to the Court.
  • Court Approval: In many cases, clean break agreements are submitted to the Court for approval as part of the divorce proceedings. The Court will review the agreement to ensure that it is fair and reasonable to both parties and meets the legal requirements. If the Court is satisfied with the agreement, it will issue a consent order, making the agreement legally binding.
  • Implementation: Once the clean break agreement has been approved by the Court, both parties are legally bound by its terms. They must then adhere to the terms of the agreement, including any financial obligations or division of assets outlined therein.

A clean break agreement should only be pursued after careful consideration and with a clear understanding of its implications. It’s essential to have a thorough understanding of your financial situation and future needs before finalising the agreement.

Can a clean break agreement be overturned?

A clean break agreement, once approved by the Court and made into a court order, is typically legally binding and enforceable. However, there are circumstances in which such agreements might be challenged or overturned. These include instances of fraud or misrepresentation, where one party can prove that the agreement was obtained deceitfully. 

Additionally, if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the agreement was made, such as a substantial change in income or assets, a court may reconsider its terms. Non-disclosure of assets during the negotiation of the agreement can also lead to its invalidation. 

Furthermore, if the terms of the agreement are deemed grossly unfair or unconscionable by the Court, or if it was entered into under duress, undue influence, or by a party lacking mental capacity, it may be set aside. Mistakes made by both parties regarding fundamental aspects of the agreement could also prompt a court to revise it. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining a clean break agreement?

Advantages of a Clean Break Agreement:

  • Finality and certainty: Provides a clear and final division of assets and eliminates the possibility of future financial claims between the parties. This can offer peace of mind and emotional closure, allowing both parties to move on with their lives without the uncertainty of future financial entanglements.
  • Reduced conflict: Streamlining the financial aspects of the divorce can minimise potential disagreements and conflicts down the road, leading to a more amicable separation. This can be especially beneficial for couples with children, as it reduces tension and fosters a more peaceful co-parenting environment.
  • Cost savings: Clean break agreements can potentially save money on legal fees compared to prolonged court battles or ongoing maintenance obligations.
  • Financial independence: Each party gains financial independence and control over their future assets and income, allowing them to plan their financial future independently with no ongoing financial obligations related to their ex-spouse.
  • Child Support and Maintenance Payments: It can include provisions for child support and spousal maintenance, ensuring that both parties know what to expect.

Disadvantages of a Clean Break Agreement:

  • Unfairness in certain situations: If there is a significant disparity in income or assets between partners, a clean break agreement may be unfair to the lower-earning spouse, especially if they have traditionally relied on the other partner financially.
  • Limited flexibility: Once finalised, a clean break divorce typically leaves limited room for adjustments even if circumstances change significantly in the future, such as illness, disability, or unforeseen financial hardships.
  • Potential for regret: In some cases, one or both parties may later regret the terms of the agreement, especially if their financial circumstances change unexpectedly.
  • Not suitable for all couples: Clean breaks may not be suitable for all divorcing couples. It’s essential to consider the long-term needs and well-being of any dependents before entering into a clean break agreement.

 

How can Expert Family Law assist?

The divorce solicitors on our panel provide expert legal advice on all types of divorces, from clean break agreements to other types of financial orders in divorce. If you are looking for more information on clean break agreements, including advice on clean break order costs, then our solicitors can help.

Please note that we are not a firm of solicitors. We have a panel of family law firms who we may pass your case on for a fee. Expert Family Law will not charge you, the client, for our service of passing on your case.

We ensure our panel firms have the skills and experience required to assist with your legal case. We can assure you that your case will be dealt with in a compassionate and understanding manner.

The solicitors on our panel can assist you through the process of divorce, including the application, as well as assisting you with child arrangements, financial settlements and ancillary relief following the termination of your marriage.

Each solicitor we work with is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Get in touch today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a divorce solicitor from our panel could help with your case.

 

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