Breaking a Protective Order

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Breach of a Divorce Settlement Agreement

If you have breached your consent order following your divorce, you may find yourself facing serious consequences and in need of expert legal advice. A consent order decreed by the court is a legally binding document, and failure to comply with the terms can, in the most serious cases, put you in contempt of court.

Clifford Johnston & Co are family law solicitors with extensive experience of assisting clients who find themselves accused of breaching a court order.  If you become aware that charges may be brought against you, call us today for immediate assistance.

What is a divorce consent order?

A financial consent order is a written document detailing the agreements made between a divorcing couple concerning their financial affairs and any payments due from one party to the other, such as for the maintenance of children. Once drafted and agreed by the court, it becomes legally binding; any changes to it must be appealed and upheld by a judge. Because it is a court order, any failure to comply with the terms of the order mean that you are in contempt of court, which is a serious offence.

What happens if you breach a consent order?

If you fail to keep to the terms of your consent order, this may be considered a breach of a court order, which the court takes a very negative view of. Unless you can demonstrate that you had a good reason for the breach, the court will usually enforce the order, and you would be liable to fulfil your responsibilities immediately. Depending on the circumstances, they might:

  • Ask that a specified sum is directly taken from your wages if you have failed to make payments that you were obligated to, such as maintenance payments. Your employer will pay the money to the court, who will use it to pay your debt. This is called an attachment of earnings order.
  • Secure the debt against any property that you own – you may even be forced to sell your property. This is known as a charging order.
  • Sign any relevant documents required in order to execute the transference of your property or shares to your ex.
  • Issue a warrant of execution, enabling bailiffs to come and remove any items of value for sale in order to ensure that your outstanding payments are made.
  • Order a fine and/or impose a sentence which could include imprisonment for contempt of court.

If you have breached your consent order, you will need to fulfil your obligations under the order within a set period of time.  If you fail to comply with the terms of the order, you may face any of the consequences above, including a real risk of receiving a fine or even a custodial sentence.

Reasons for breaching a financial consent order

There may be a genuinely justifiable or understandable reason for breaching your consent order; perhaps you have been made redundant or suffered injury or ill health which has had an effect on your finances or your ability to meet your obligations.

In some cases, breaches of consent orders occur as a result of an admin error or misunderstanding. If this is the case, it may be possible to rectify the situation without any further proceedings, but the courts would need to be satisfied that these circumstances are genuine, and not as a result of choosing to disregard the court order.

If a change in your financial circumstances is ultimately the reason for you not being able to make payments for example, it might be necessary to revisit and if necessary, amend the terms of the original consent order.

Whatever the situation, it is important that you take action to avoid being found in contempt of court.

If your breach was not as a result of an oversight, and you have committed a serious breach, or consistently breach the order multiple times, then it is likely that you will find action being taken against you.

If I am taken to court for breaching my consent order- who pays?

If the court agrees to take action against you, and you are found to have breached the consent order, you will be liable for court costs and any legal fees incurred by both sides – in addition to any fines or penalties you receive.

Why choose Clifford Johnston & Co?

If you have breached your divorce settlement agreement consent order or have received notice that your ex-spouse is considering taking action against you for breaching the terms of your divorce settlement, it is crucial to take expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

The terms of a court order vary from case to case, and whether the court will choose to enforce the order will depend on the circumstances, but one of our contempt of court specialists will be able to offer advice and guidance on the best course of action for you to take. Where it is possible to take action to remedy the breach and avoid court proceedings this will always be preferable, but if you need to appear in court we will work with you to build the best defence available, representing you and doing everything that we can to attain the best possible outcome.

With over 20 years’ experience of representing clients facing contempt of court cases, the legal team at Clifford Johnston & Co have the skills and experience to guide you through the process.

Our offices are in Manchester but we regularly work with clients throughout the UK, so if you need legal assistance for breaching your divorce settlement, contact us without delay.

Contact us

Our friendly team will deal with your enquiry sensitively and with understanding so contact us today for helpful and supportive advice.

With offices in Stockport (Heaton Moor) & Manchester (Burnage), our expert contempt of court solicitors are easily accessible. We represent clients not only locally throughout Stockport and Cheshire, Lancashire & Manchester but also across the United Kingdom.  We regularly act for clients from across the North West and Cheshire including Altrincham, Hale, Alderley Edge, Wilmslow and Knutsford.

You can count on us to help and guide you whatever your challenge or circumstance.


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