When Is A Clean Break Divorce Order Not In Your Best Interests?

By Guest Contributor Dakota Murphey

When Is A Clean Break Divorce Order Not In Your Best Interests?

(Image: iStock)

Many divorces end up in fraught and expensive court battles because of disagreements about finances and how they should be divided up. Although a divorce ends a marriage, it doesn’t necessarily finalise the financial side of a relationship.

Agreeing to a divorce settlement is one thing, but unless you and your ex-spouse sign an agreement known as a Consent Order, and also apply for a Clean Break Order, your ex could claim a substantial portion of your assets, income, pensions, and property investments anytime in the future. A Clean Break Divorce Order cuts the financial ties between a married couple, but it is not always the right solution.

Financial Settlement

A financial settlement covers the following:

  • Maintenance payments for either of the parties
  • maintenance payments in respect of any children
  • Dividing up savings, investments and any other assets
  • Dividing up the proceeds of the sale of any property
  • Sharing the value of any pension funds

The courts deal with divorce financial settlements on a case by case basis, and the ultimate aim is to remove the monetary ties between the two parties. The financial agreement also treats the interests of any children under the age of 18 as a top priority.

Clean Break Order

If, instead of signing a financial settlement, you apply for a Clean Break Order, then you’ll have a court ordered settlement that ends all monetary claims between you and your ex-partner, except for any maintenance payments in respect of the children, as this is dealt with under a separate statutory scheme.

Once a Clean Break Order is issued, courts will not consider any future claims by either party, other than in exceptional circumstances. Without a Clean Break Order, if you receive an inheritance, or are promoted to a better-paying job, your ex could claim a share of this new income. 

Even if a divorcing couple mutually agree on certain financial arrangements and a split of the assets, either of them could change their minds at a later date and approach the courts to revise the settlement. Here’s a true story:

A man who’d been divorced for almost ten years won nearly £60m in the Euro Millions a few years ago. Unfortunately for him, at the time of his divorce, he and his wife decided not to apply for a Clean Break Order. The man believed that obtaining a divorce would be the end of it and he soon remarried. When his former wife, who did not remarry, heard about his windfall, she immediately applied to the courts for a share of his lottery winnings … and won! The ex-husband ended up having to pay around £2 million in an out-of-court settlement.

When A Clean Break Order May Not Be The Right Solution

 A Clean Break Order is not always the most suitable solution. It might be that you have to pay maintenance to your ex-spouse to equalise your incomes, or that there simply isn’t enough capital in the marital ‘pot’ to make a clean break possible.

There could also be situations that are too uncertain for a Clean Break Order. For example, where planning permission is being considered that could increase the value of your property, or where a family business is being floated and the valuation could significantly alter as a result.

If you suspect that your income might decrease appreciably, or you think your ex’s income may increase appreciably in the near future, then it may also not be in your best interests to have a Clean Break Order. 

When deciding to divorce you should always take advice from a solicitor. A professional firm like George Ide can help you finalise an appropriate settlement and, where possible, cut your financial ties.


Dakota Murphey; BA (Hons) Marketing graduate, freelance writer and Photoshop dab hand. When she's not running around after her two kids, you’ll find her relaxing in a nearby coffee shop, watching the world pass her by. If you enjoyed this article, see what else she's been up to on Twitter - @Dakota_Murphey.

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