Worried sick - consent order hearing in July(7 Posts)
Please forgive the lengthy scene-setting - any advice you can give based on your experiences of consent orders would be gratefully received.
My ex and I have a very difficult relationship and, despite being divorced for over 2 years now, ended up in mediation to agree our financial and childcare arrangements. This took 8 months as he delayed, didn't pay bills, and was often unreasonable throughout. After finally reaching agreement, the deal was that my solicitor would draft the financial element into an order, submit it to court, and he'd pay half of this - didn't want his own solicitor.
I live in the marital home with my 2 girls and have paid the mortgage on my own since he left. Payments are due to go up to around £1500 a month in October, which I simply can't afford (it's a struggle already), so the house needs to be sold. The order gives me around 60% of the house value and my ex a lump sum to be paid once the order is sealed. I have more of a pension and savings than him - he's in debt - but he has remarried and has a new baby.
The order has been going between my solicitor and ex-husband since February as there were points in wording he wanted changing. He finally signed it in May and I put the house on the market that week. Since then, he's been even more unreasonable and has now hired a solicitor who has written to mine to say that he doesn't accept the order is valid as (1) he had no legal representation when he agreed it, and (2) part of my pension statement wasn't sent to me until February, after mediation, so he wasn't in possession of the full facts when we agreed the terms. He's saying he wants more money now as the house has gone for £10,000 more than it was valued at back in mediation (consent order makes it clear that if this happens he has no claim to any increase in value), but I suspect the real reason he's doing this is to be difficult. He sees that once the only financial tie to him - the house - is gone, he has less control over my life. He's refusing to sign the house sale paperwork which runs the risk of me losing the buyer. The order has a clause that says I can get a judge to sign house papers if the ex refuses, but if the order isn't granted then I'm scuppered.
His solicitor hasn't challenged the order on his behalf so the reason for the judge ordering a hearing for it (the clerk tells me) is to ensure that he's fully understanding of and happy with what he's signed as he had no legal representation. Therein lies my worry - when we both turn up to the hearing and the judge asks that question, my ex will say he's not happy and the order might not be sealed.
I can demonstrate that the mediator advised us to both seek legal advice following the agreement being reached, and that every correspondence my solicitor had with my ex included the standard wording around him seeking his own legal counsel as she is acting on my behalf. The decision to not hire a solicitor before signing the order was his alone, so surely saying he didn't have the benefit of advice after the fact is too late? My pensions statement arrived 2 months after it was requested but this was noted in mediation and as soon as it was received I forwarded him a copy. No questions were asked about it nor any comment made. It was included in my financial disclosure statement that my ex eventually signed along with the consent order so it wasn't information that came to light after the documents were signed. I'm not even sure, thinking about it, whether he can belatedly go after my pension as he's remarried and no wording about his still having a claim on my assets was included in the divorce paperwork.
I'm hoping that if this is explained to a judge at the hearing that the order will still be sealed, but so anxious that he/she will not agree it and I'll be back to square one. Has anyone been through this, or similar, who can offer any advice or words of wisdom? It feels like this will never end, and I just want to sell my house and move on with my life.
If he didn't tick the boxes for financial orders in the petition, then no, he can no longer pursue any financial claims against you under the Matrimonial Causes Act. He could bring a claim in relation to the house only, under Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act.
If he did tick those boxes, then his financial claims remain open.
As far as his position is concerned, the late pension information seems to me to be a red herring, as he had it before confirming the agreement. The lack of legal advice is of more concern.
Ultimately if the Judge refuses to make the order, you're either going to have to give him more money, or make a formal application to the court.
Thanks for the advice - feeling frustrated that the courts allow consent orders to be submitted without having employed a solicitor in the first place if it's going to potentially scupper the whole thing when a hearing's called.
Just checked my divorce petition and he did tick the financial boxes (obviously knew what he was doing) so his claiming on my pension could be an issue. Wish I'd not been so naïve and got this sorted with the benefit of a solicitor before the divorce went through.
It's going to be an anxious couple of weeks I think :-(
They do approve orders from unrepresented parties, if the judge can see it's fair, I'm guessing the judge felt this looked too much in your favour so wanted to double check. The judge isn't just rubber stamping, they are there to ensure orders are properly drawn and understood and do justice between you.
Annoying though. Try not to stress, there's not much you can do just now.
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