What is a Clean Break Order in a Divorce?

Oftentimes, divorcing couples say they want a ‘clean break’, but many are not aware what a clean break actually means from a legal perspective. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss what a clean break order is and the pros and cons of it.


What is a clean break order?

A clean break order is a type of financial order that is implemented following a divorce or dissolution. Having a clean break means that from a specified date in a Court Order, neither party involved in the divorce will be able to make further financial claims against the other person. 

It essentially means that all of the financial ties between ex-spouses or partners are broken and a line is drawn under the division of assets. 

Where there is a clean break order put in place, there will be no spousal maintenance payments.

What is an example of a clean break in a divorce?

Once a clean break order is put in place, it means there can be no further claims for maintenance, lump sums, pension orders or property. 

For example, the funds from the division of property during a divorce will be divided between parties. A clean break order will confirm these arrangements and record that there can be no further claims of this nature or indeed any other financial claims.

Do the courts prefer a clean break?

Yes, the courts do generally prefer a clean break order in order to prevent individuals from making further financial claims against their ex-partners. It can also be a relatively quick and easy process if the parties have already agreed a financial settlement, making it much simpler for the courts to process too.

Do both parties have to agree to a clean break order?

Both parties must agree to a clean break order; otherwise, you need to make an application to Court for a financial remedy order and ask the court to make the clean break order.  

Thankfully, there are various options available if one party will not agree to the clean break order which you may wish to consider prior to instigating financial proceedings with the court: 

  • Mediation Services – Mediation can be helpful in a number of cases where agreements cannot be reached.  During mediation, you will talk with an independent third party to help you and your ex-spouse reach an agreement. 
  • Solicitor to Solicitor Negotiation – This option is usually recommended for high conflict divorces or where the financial circumstances are complex. 
  • Collaborative Divorce – This refers to a four-way meeting that can occur between two divorcing parties and their solicitors. This can help to prevent heightened emotions and help ex-partners reach agreements about their financial settlements. 

Financial Remedy Order- If all the above options fail and your ex-spouse is still refusing to sign any financial settlements, you can ask the court to settle the financial issues for you. This should usually be used as a last resort, since it incurs additional costs and is usually much more time consuming than the other options.

Types of clean break in a divorce

There are a few different types of clean break orders that are open to you during a divorce:

Immediate clean break

An immediate clean break is where all claims for maintenance, pensions, lump sums and property are dismissed immediately. 

Immediate clean break with future maintenance payments being capitalised 

This will achieve an immediate clean break, but only because the ongoing maintenance payments one party is entitled to receive have been paid to them upfront. 

Deferred clean break

A deferred clean break will occur at a defined point in the future, such as when your youngest child turns 18 or finishes school, or even after a specified number of years it is anticipated that the receiving party will be able to find a job and support themselves. 

How long does a clean break order take?

There is no set time frame, but it will usually take around several months to complete. If you can reach a clean break agreement amicably with your ex-spouse, the process will typically be much quicker than if you need to apply to the court for assistance. 

How much does a clean break order cost?

The cost of a clean break order depends purely on the circumstances. For more straightforward circumstances, a fixed fee can sometimes be offered, but for more complex matters, there may be additional charges.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a clean break order?

Advantages of a clean break order 

There are many advantages of a clean break order, including:

  • No further financial negotiations or proceedings – One of the most common reasons why couples settle with a clean break order is because it ends constant negotiations and court proceedings in regards to financial matters.

    Once the order has been sealed by the court, both you and your ex-spouse’s finances are legally considered separate.
  • Your future assets are protected – Once a clean break order has been approved, it is legally binding and will cover both your current financial assets as well as any future income and assets.

    This can be particularly beneficial if you expect your income to change or you expect your financial situation to improve, such as through inheritance or a growing business. Knowing your current and future assets are protected can offer you security and peace of mind.
  • Speeds up your divorce – It can often be advisable to delay finalising the divorce until a financial settlement has been agreed; so, once an agreement is reached and an order obtained, the divorce can be concluded.
  • Saves money on legal fees – Divorcing couples can spend thousands of pounds trying to get the best post-divorce financial settlement possible. Clean break orders allow each party to agree to end financial ties completely, cutting back on solicitors fees and therefore, achieving a quicker divorce in the process. 

Disadvantages of a clean break order 

Once the court has approved a Clean Break Order, it is extremely difficult to reopen a financial case. Therefore, you cannot look to set aside a clean break order just because you have changed your mind about the settlement you agreed and now wish to seek more money, pension or property from your ex-partner.

What should I do if my ex partner won’t sign a clean break order?

If your ex partner won’t sign a clean break order, you can apply to the family court for an order. You will have to pay a fee to the court to do this, as well as completing a financial statement providing full disclosure of your income, assets and liabilities. This will also involve attending court hearings before a decision can be made. 

This will take much longer and will be more expensive than if you can agree on a clean break order voluntarily. 

Alternatively, you can use the other methods previously discussed, such as mediation, solicitor negotiations and collaborative divorce to try and obtain an agreement.

How do you get a clean break order?

When you have agreed a financial settlement, you need to embody this in a court order and the court order needs to include provision to dismiss all financial claims – this is the clean break.  

The court has the ability to approve these orders any time on or after the pronouncement of the conditional order in the divorce and this will ensure all financial ties are cut between you and your ex-spouse.

FAQs about Clean Break Orders

Do you need a clean break order if you remarry?

If you did not obtain a clean break order and your ex-spouse remarries, they are severely limited to any pursuit of financial claims made against you. 

However, it is not advisable to rely on the remarriage of either yourself or your ex-spouse instead of a clean break order, as there is no guarantee either of you will remarry. 

Does the length of a marriage affect a clean break order?

A clean break order is deemed more appropriate where the length of the marriage is short. This is because you are less likely to have a number of shared assets, such as bank accounts, property and vehicles. 

A marriage of less than 5 years is generally considered by the courts to be a short marriage. If the couple has no children, the family courts will generally consider an equal division of all assets acquired during the marriage. 

Is a clean break order the same as a financial order?

A clean break order is a type of financial order, which is what specifies how your assets will be divided. 

If the financial order contains a “clean break clause”, then it is referred to as a clean break order.

Is a clean break order final?

Yes, a clean break order is final. The intention behind a clean break order is to provide finality, completely breaking all financial ties between you and your ex-spouse. 

Can a clean break order be overturned?

Yes, there are some limited circumstances in which a clean break order can be overturned, including:

  • If there is a significant and completely unforeseen change in circumstances soon after the order is made.
  • Where there is evidence of a mistake or fraud, such as failure to properly disclose assets during the divorce settlement process.

Our goal is to help our clients solve their family legal matters as smoothly as possible.

Wiselaw logo

VM Family Law is listed as a Leading Lawyer by Wiselaw

Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority – VM Family Law Ltd - No. 809780

VM Family Law Ltd is a limited company, registered in England and Wales. Company Number:12777521. VAT Number:379075066

Website: Dylan Robinson © 2024. VM Family Law Ltd. All rights reserved. | Privacy policy