Financial consent orders – the role of the court
When a couple get divorced and agree on their financial arrangements, they usually submit a draft financial order to the court for the district judge to make by consent.
The draft order has to be accompanied by a ‘statement of information for a consent order’ setting out a summary of the parties financial situations (capital, income, pensions, whether they’re intending to cohabit or remarry, etc.).
When the district judge reads the draft order, (s)he also reads the statement of information and uses it to decide whether the draft order is fair to both parties. If it appears to favour one party over the other, the district judge will refuse to make the order until (s)he has received further information or explanation, either by post or at a short hearing.
District judges take this responsibility seriously. It is not at all uncommon for a draft order to be rejected first time round. This judicial scrutiny is a safeguard against injustice and helps to prevent a party from being disadvantaged financially, perhaps permanently.
People agree to unfavourable financial arrangements for a variety of reasons, including guilt (perhaps they were the one who had an affair and ended the marriage), ignorance (they don’t realise the settlement is a bad one, perhaps because they haven’t taken legal advice), and not liking to upset the applecart (they’ve taken advice but rather late in the day and they don’t like to upset their spouse by going back on what’s been provisionally agreed).