Consent orders are a way of cementing the terms of your divorce. If you don’t get a consent order you run the risk of being on the wrong end of a financial claim from your ex spouse in years to come. In addition, in the absence of a consent order, arrangements about childcare and residence could be difficult to enforce. Form D81 accompanies your application for an order, providing the judge with a clear picture of your finances to enable him or her to approve – or reject – the terms of the proposed consent order. In March 2022 the Ministry of Justice updated FormD81, and here we look at the information you need to provide consider how the form is used more widely as a tool to assist in developing a more definitive formula for financial settlements.

What Is Form D81

When you and your spouse have reached agreement on financial matters and arrangements for children it’s essential that you formalise these terms in a court-approved consent order. Form D81 is used to support an application for a consent order or a financial remedy order relating to a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. It’s a comprehensive illustration of the financial circumstances of the couple getting divorced. As such it equips the judge with the information necessary to make a decision as to whether the consent order being applied for is appropriate in the circumstances.

Form D81 is different from the Form E that’s used in the early stages of the divorce process. That form enables the parties to exchange financial information and begin discussions on how assets should be divided. Form D81 on the other hand presents the full financial picture. It also explains the practical impact of the consent order on family finances and living arrangements.

What Information Do I Need to Provide On Form D81?

Among the detailed information you are required to provide on Form D81 is the following:

  • How the proposed order was reached – through mediation, out of court settlement or other collaborative process?
  • Current capital assets (joint and solely owned)
  • Current income
  • The impact of the proposed consent order on capital and income of each party
  • Whether either party has a medical condition or employment status that is likely to change their earning capacity
  • An explanation of why certain proposals have been made, for example is a pension value being offset against capital? If so, why?
  • Future living arrangements
  • Details of any new relationships or intention to cohabit

Form D81 ends with a  ‘statement of truth’ where each side verifies the contents. The form warns that the making of a false statement could result in contempt of court proceedings.

Form D81is an important document, requiring extensive input from the divorcing couple. It deals with complex financial affairs and it’s often advisable to get legal advice before completion of the form. Judges are by no means obliged to accept the proposed consent order terms. An application prepared with the help of a specialist family lawyer will give you the best opportunity of getting a consent order you’re happy with  approved.

Using FormD81 To Make Financial Settlements Clearer

We mentioned above that FormD81 was updated in March 2022. One reason for the revision was that judges felt the information provided on  the forms was not sufficiently clear. In particular the judiciary felt FormD81s didn’t properly demonstrate the net effect of the proposed consent order. The March 2022 edition of Form D81 tackles this by asking explicit questions about the impact of the proposed terms and the reasoning behind them. Long term the Family Remedies Court (the branch of the family court system that handles financial matters) is interested in making it easier for divorcing couples to understand at the outset what a financial settlement may look like for them.

When making financial orders judges have a wide discretion and must take into account a wide range of factors. This has the effect of making financial orders  difficult to predict. While many divorce settlements get reported in the media, these tend to be big money cases that bear little resemblance to the vast majority of divorces. So most couples have little in the way of guidance to go on. It’s hoped that the extensive information gathered from the updated Form D81 may in some way be harnessed to provide an analysis of consent orders across the country. The hope is that this in turn may go some way to producing some kind of numerical formula that could be used to approximately predict financial settlements on a case by case basis.

Comment

With the advent of no-fault divorce transparency in the process for obtaining consent orders is key. The updated Form D81 we believe will enable the courts to make more informed decisions about whether or not to approve a consent order with reference to more detail than ever before about anticipated  future finances and living arrangements.

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