District Judges reject some orders because a consent order, unlike a normal court order cannot be appealed and cannot be set aside unless there are exceptional circumstances. Get it wrong and you may be stuck with something you really did not “consent” to – or even think through properly – for a very long time.
This is not scaremongering. It is fact. And that is why Judges reject consent orders which don’t look quite right, time and again.
They are not trying to annoy you. They are not trying to create work for lawyers. They (and the lawyers) are trying to protect you.
Protecting yourself from a mistake in a consent order (especially where you and your spouse agree entirely what is going into it) is easy. A specialist family lawyer can draft a consent order for you and all of the documents which go with it for a reasonable price if you look around.
If you are looking for a family lawyer to give you face to face advice you can trust, begin looking near to home or work. Ask for a recommendation from family or friends or someone you work with. Look at local firms’ websites. Do they advertise their fees? Do they have information on there that is written in plain English you can understand?
Anyone authorised to give advice on family law in England and Wales can draw up a consent order for you wherever they are based in either of the countries – but you may feel more comfortable with a local firm where you can pop in if you need to sign.
Some people are more confident with email and dealing with issues over the phone. It may not be as important to you where your solicitor is based. Even so, if you are going to choose someone simply based on their website, do take care. Don’t just go for the cheapest and hope it will be ok. It probably won’t.
Check that they are genuine solicitors on the law society website and not just an internet based company which may not have any qualified or legally trained staff and will not therefore be regulated by the solicitors regulation authority or carry full professional indemnity insurance.
This is very important because a) our solicitor’s insurance protects you in full if we make a mistake and b) if you need to complain and we can’t resolve that with you you will have recourse to an independent legal ombudsman.
You simply do not have this level of protection (backed by law) if you choose not to use a regulated, qualified and authorised firm.
If in doubt ring the SRA. They will tell you if the firm you are about to use is properly regulated by them or not.
Legal advice and services, like anything else you buy, is of varying quality. The worst of it attracts a lot of warranted attention for all the wrong reasons.
But do not allow yourself to be convinced that the people selling consent orders for £30 who have not taken the trouble to become regulated and pay the insurance premiums are as safe or as experienced (or in the long run as good value) as a half decent solicitors firm.
The expensive part of any financial agreement is reaching the agreement in the first place. Once you have that the drafting of the order and making it legally binding is routine documentation – bespoke to a degree of course but routine nevertheless. It should not cost you a fortune and should not take too long. I prepare many of these documents both for my local clients and those who have entrusted me to work for them even though we will never meet. I charge a fixed fee.