What is a clean break order?

June 14th, 2021

A ‘clean break’ is a phrase often used by individuals after a divorce. A clean break with the past, a clean break financially, a clean break from what may have been a toxic relationship. But the phrase also has legal precedence, and a ‘clean break’ order can make a big difference later on, especially if you go on to have a stronger financial situation after the divorce.

A clean break order can help you cut all financial ties with your ex-spouse and move on with your life after a divorce, without the worry that they’ll be able to make any further financial claims against you later on. It may not be applicable in every case, but if you feel that your ex-spouse may try to lay claim to any financial success you have even after the divorce has been granted, it’s worth talking to a family law expert to discuss the prospect of having a court issue a clean break order.

Breaking down the details

If you want to make sure that your finances are ‘spouse-proof’ going forward, a clean break order is potentially the best choice. To start with, the court will take into account all the assets and income of each party. How long you’ve been together will also play a part. So for example, if you’ve been together for several years and the less wealthy spouse has contributed considerably to the upkeep of the home, looking after the children and so on, then it’s more likely that a court may rule that they are entitled to a substantial proportion of the combined assets, including those of the wealthier partner. However each case is decided on its own individual facts and no cases are the same in family law.

How the assets are shared out will also contribute to any further decision on the future distribution of finances (for example, one person remains in the family home while the other gets a proportional share of the remaining financial assets).

Long-term financial assets such as pensions will also play a major role in the decision-making process. It may be that a pension fund is split equally, or that other arrangements are made that are fair to both parties. A clean break order may be relevant to the pensions in the case.

An assessment of any outstanding debts will also play a part, such as mortgages or loans.

When is it practical to have a clean break?

There needs  to be agreement from both parties to create a clean break order. Bearing in mind that once it’s been agreed then no further financial claims can be made by either person, it needs to be negotiated with skill to ensure an amicable agreement is reached.

If it’s difficult to come to a clean break agreement then you may need to think about asking the court for a spousal maintenance order  instead, especially if one partner is unable to financially support themselves. It’s worth remembering that spousal maintenance is not the same as child maintenance. Normally, spousal maintenance is not considered if the marriage or civil partnership is childless, unless exceptional circumstances exist.

It’s easiest to agree on a clean break order if there is little or no financial dependency between the two parties.

Why get a court to make it official?

A clean break order means that one party cannot ‘go after’ the other financially later on. For example, if one of the parties received a windfall after the divorce, there’s no possibility of the former spouse laying claim to any financial assets after the couple have officially divorced and secured a clean break order. Once a clean break order has been ordered by the court, it prevents a former spouse from asking for a larger share of your assets and removes any potential animosity or expensive legal action later on.

A clean break order must be agreed upon by both parties and to make it binding a consent order has to be completed and signed by both parties, and then approved by the judge to be effective, provided the court are satisfied the terms are fair. It’s important to avoid long and drawn-out disputes, as these will be expensive, painful, and could damage the possibility of an amicable arrangement being reached. A clean break order is a complex legal area that needs expert legal guidance to make sure both parties agree and are happy with the outcome. If you  want to discuss the possibility of arranging a clean break order, or want to know if spousal maintenance is preferable, talk to an experienced and qualified family law solicitor today.