What is a clean break order?

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 25th October 2023

Finances in divorce can get messy as both parties scramble to secure their future. But sometimes, couples just want to get the process over and done with quickly so they can move on with their lives.

That’s where a clean break order comes in. But are you sure you understand what this means in terms of divorce law?

It’s a common misconception that, when a final order has been secured in divorce proceedings, that financial ties are also severed.

Without a financial order in place, ex-partners can (and have) made pension claims, claims against capital assets and claims for things like spousal maintenance after a divorce has been finalised - and in some cases have been successful in those claims.

clean-break-order

In this article, we’ll help you get to grips with what a clean break means for divorcing couples or civil partners. We’ll take a look at:

  • What a clean break is;

  • When a clean break might be the best thing;

  • Pros & cons of a clean break;

  • What is included in a clean break;

  • How to apply for a clean break order;

  • Possible alternatives to a clean break;

What is a clean break order?

A clean break order is a type of divorce financial settlement in which divorcing couples or civil partners agree that all financial ties between them will end when their divorce is finalised.

That means, after a final order has been issued, neither ex-spouse or civil partner can make a claim for things like spousal maintenance or pension entitlement.

The idea of a clean break is it brings closure to the financial side of a relationship, letting both parties move forward without any lingering financial obligations or the treat of a future financial claim over their head.

When is a clean break order right?

Generally, a clean break order is considered when one or both parties want to protect themselves against future financial claims after they’ve divorced or separated.

That being said, a clean break order might not be suitable for all divorcing spouses or civil partners. For example, if there are dependent children in the family or if one spouse or civil partner earns less than the other.

Clean break orders are most popular with couples who haven’t been married for very long and do not rely on each other financially. When couples have been married for longer, and children, property and joint finances are thrown into the mix, a clean break might not be suitable and instead a consent order may be required.

Benefits of a clean break order

The main benefit of a clean break order is that both ex-partners have the peace of mind that a financial claim won’t be made against them in the future and that a dispute is unlikely to arise and disrupt their lives.

It can also provide clarity and independence to both parties, who are able to confidently move forward with the next chapter of their lives, free from any financial obligations to one another.

A clean break order can also help to protect both parties’ assets by outlining who owns what property or assets at the time of separation. This helps to ensure that no one party can take advantage of another during the dissolution of the relationship by claiming ownership over certain assets or property without proper documentation or proof of ownership.

Finally, this kind of settlement offers a quick resolution to all parties involved in relationship dissolution. This agreement clarifies rights and responsibilities regarding asset division and other matters, enabling a speedy move forward without requiring lengthy court proceedings or mediation.

Disadvantages of a clean break order

There are situations when a person might stand to lose out if they agree to a clean break.

For example, it could make life particularly hard for spouses who relied on their partner for financial support before the divorce due to childcare responsibilities or if they have limited income.

There are ways and means of reducing the risks involved in a clean break order, such as a deferred clean break. However, it’s important to seek specialist legal advice from a divorce lawyer before you agree to any clean break order to protect your interests in future.

What are the different types of clean break order?

Not all clean break orders are made equal. They can be drawn up with caveats and conditions, especially in situations where a clean break might unfairly disadvantage one spouse or civil partner. The different types of clean break agreements are:

Immediate Clean Breaks

Immediate clean breaks come into effect on the day the order is issued by the court and mean from that day forward no one can make a claim for maintenance, pensions, lump sums, property, or anything else related to the other person’s finances.

Deferred Clean Breaks

In a deferred clean break, the order comes into force at an agreed future date. A deferred clean break can make sure partners continue to receive financial support until their children are older, for example, but set a clear point in time when no further financial claims can be made.

Immediate Clean Breaks With Payment of Future Maintenance

In this type of clean break, one partner will pay the other an agreed lump sum to cover future maintenance. However, following the payment of that lump sum and enforcement of the order, no future claims for maintenance can be made.

What should be included in a clean break order?

First and foremost, it's crucial to address all financial assets - properties, investments, and any debts or liabilities. If children are involved, it's essential to outline detailed child arrangements to ensure shared responsibilities.

Lastly, spousal support arrangements should be included, leaving no room for uncertainty.

How to apply for a clean break order

An application for a clean break order can be made after a Conditional Order has been issued in the divorce process.

Separating spouses and civil partners should have already decided how their matrimonial assets should be separated and made arrangements for children.

The court will decide whether they accept or reject the proposed clean break agreement.

It’s important to note that a court will reject a clean break order if they think it is unfair on one person, or that in doing so one person in the separating couple would suffer financial hardship as a result.

Do both parties have to agree to a clean break order?

It is better if both parties do agree to a clean break, but they do not have to.

If one partner disagrees with the clean break order and refuses to sign it, the other party can apply to the family court for an order. However this can be a lengthy, expensive process, which might not be worth the trouble.

Instead, it may be more productive to have further talks about an appropriate financial settlement using alternative dispute resolutions methods like mediation.

Alternatives to clean break orders

Divorce is a complex topic, especially concerning finances. Clean break orders are commonly used to divide assets and debts, but alternatives exist.

A consent order is a formal record of a financial agreement made by divorcing couples.

If a clean break order isn’t feasible, a consent order can present a more flexible arrangement, and also include a clean break clause to protect future finances of the individuals involved, as well as lay out obligations to ongoing maintenance and financial support.

Much like a clean break order, a consent order will be submitted to and reviewed by the family court.

legal-help-with-financial-orders

If you’re getting divorced, it’s important to make sure any financial settlements are formalised through a court order to protect yourself against future claims.

To get help with your clean break order, or get advice on getting a fair settlement on divorce, our family lawyers are here to help. To get started, tell us about your case and get a fixed-fee quote for the legal help you need and start working with an expert divorce solicitor today.

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