Clean Break Agreements
You can ask our solicitors for advice on clean break order using the question box on the front of our website or the following article may answer your questions.
A clean break order or divorce agreement is a way of managing the division of assets and liabilities when a relationship is coming to an end. It won’t be suitable for everyone and anyone considering making one, should consider seeking legal advice before doing so.
For those couples who can agree about what will happen with their property and money, it may well save them time, trouble and stress later on if they make a Clean Break Agreement.
Once an agreement has been reached, it ensures that both parties have a clean break and they are financially independent of each other. This document is in depth and will cover specific financial issues which will be drafted by a solicitor. When the agreement is finalised, this removes all financial responsibilities, preventing either party to make a future claim in relation to finances.
Clean Break Arrangement
A clean break divorce agreement can be made in many situations but will prove much more complex if one spouse relies financially upon the other. That said, if you seek legal advice from a suitably qualified legal professional, they will be able to assess the financial status of each spouse and determine whether a financial lump sum could be paid instead. This is deemed to be an acceptable form of settlement.
Solicitors will often advise whether it is best to opt for a clean break order or spousal maintenance.
Clean break order or divorce agreements can be taken out if neither of the couple have little to no financial dependence on the other. Typically, these types of agreements will apply to a couple who have only been married for a limited period of time, they have no children and where their incomes are almost the same. Clean break agreements are unsuitable for couples who have children where maintenance is payable. However, a clean break can be arranged for other aspects of the couple’s finances
Content of an Agreement
When drafting the agreement, all finances will be taken into consideration including joint and independent income and assets. Once these have been reviewed, an agreement will be reached that is fair and balanced for each party. A partner who has less wealth than the other is often entitled to a larger share of the settlement, particularly if the marriage lasted a longer period of time and it can be established that the lower wealth partner made a significant contribution to the relationship.
This contribution doesn’t have to be financial, it can be looking after the marital home or raising children.
The details of the agreement will outline how much money each partner is entitled to and information on the distribution of physical assets. It will also include how the family home will be divided, or whether an agreement has been made for one partner to reside in the main family residence. Consideration also should be given to the contents of the home and how these will be divided.
The clean break order will also look at any outstanding debts including any mortgages on the family home and who is responsible for repayment.
Additional areas that will be covered in the agreement include pensions. A pension can be a particularly valuable asset. Therefore, the clean break agreement will need to explore if or how the pension funds will be split, or whether one partner is entitled to retain the full pension fund in exchange for a lump sum.
One of the most important aspects of a clean break order and is something that both parties must agree on is that once the agreement has been signed, neither party can claim any further financial gains in the future. It’s a clean break allowing each partner to go their separate ways.
Benefits of a Clean Break Divorce
Some couples want to move on from their relationship after a divorce but spousal maintenance payments can cause problems. This is where the clean break can come in helpful because it allows a couple to arrange a final settlement, bring closure to the relationship and allow both partners in the couple to move on. If the divorce is amicable, this makes the clean break arrangement easier. Where the couple are unable to communicate, the courts can intervene to determine whether a clean break is a suitable option and whether it is fair on both parties.
In some situations, a clean break is preferable because it allows the couple to minimise future contact and eliminate any future issues that could arise if for example the spouse who is liable to pay maintenance stops meeting their obligations in terms of fulfilling payments.
One of the other major advantages to a clean break is that it can provide a full and final settlement. In spousal maintenance payments, the amount can fluctuate depending on the circumstances of the individual who is making the payments. As a result, there is a risk that payments could increase or decrease, creating uncertainty for the recipient. When a clean break is in place, the financial arrangement is implemented and any future situations won’t have an impact on the settlement. It is also important to remember that spousal maintenance payments always stop if the spouse remarries. Therefore, a clean break is an effective method of bringing closure to a relationship.
Obtaining a Clean Break Divorce
If a couple wish to obtain a clean break, they are required to obtain a consent order which the court must agree to. Either party is able to change their mind about the agreement or its terms until it is finalised. If at all possible, it is strongly encouraged that a couple negotiates the terms of the agreement amongst themselves while also seeking support from a family law solicitor.
This will ensure that the terms of the agreement are legally binding and fair. Where an agreement cannot be reached, court intervention may be needed. In this situation, the court will assess the situation and reach an informed decision. If the court does become involved in the process however, this can increase the timescale for obtaining an agreement and the costs.
When the couple reach an agreement which relates to the division of assets and finances, the family law solicitor will convert the agreement into a draft consent order will be sent to the court for their approval.