The courts have once again been called upon to confirm that financial consent orders are final and that the circumstances in which they can be varied and amended remain extremely limited.
In the recent case of CB v EB the husband was a property developer and the wife was a homemaker. The marital assets were broadly divided in equal shares except for two properties, which at the time, were under development. For these properties, provision was made that the wife would receive a share at a later date. After three years the properties were still unsold so the husband and wife reached a compromise in which the wife received a lump sum payment and the court made a final order which included a financial clean break.
When the properties eventually sold the husband did not make the profit that he had hoped for so he applied to the court to vary the order.
This is not an uncommon scenario. When property settlement orders involve assets such as shares or a property, valuations can be unreliable as market conditions change over time. However, the question arises as to whether or not this entitles the party who suffers by the reduced valuation to make a further application to the Court.
Firstly, the law states there are only extremely limited circumstances where the court can vary an order. This can include where there is fraud or mistake; a material none disclosure; a new event which invalidates the basis or the fundamental assumption on which the order was made; if the order contains undertakings and if certain terms of the order remain executory (have not yet been complied with).
The reasoning behind these limited circumstances is because parliament intends that final financial orders incorporating clean break provisions are meant to be final and bring about financial closure between a couple getting a divorce. The clear intention of parliament is to not only sever the marital ties on divorce but also sever once and for all any financial ties.
The husband lost his case because the court refused to compensate him for the financial loss he suffered.
It is always best to seek legal advice from an experienced family law practitioner. At Maxwell Hodge our family team can provide expert advice from just £100 plus vat for an initial consultation.