JEBThere are many firms offering quick online divorce services and it's tempting to access these or issue your divorce proceedings yourself to save money. Whilst it is essential that you ensure you preserve as much of your family assets as you can, it's important to take good advice and understand your options before agreeing to a clean break order.

So, what do divorcees need to know about a clean break order and what options are open to them? Jill Bruce, senior associate in the Family Law team explains the important facts.

What is a clean break order?

A clean break order means that the terms of the financial settlement reached during a divorce are a full and final settlement and would prevent either part of the couple from going back to court in the future to ask for more. The clean break is normally made together with other orders from the court. If the couple agree to a clean break then the order can be made by the court with consent, without anyone having to go to court in person. This is called a clean break order. If there is no agreement to a clean break then the court has the power to impose a clean break settlement and the law says the Judge has to specifically consider a clean break when deciding on the appropriate settlement.

Is a clean break order a good idea?

The courts encourage a clean break order and there are services that will offer to draft these for you but it is advisable to think carefully. The court will only make a clean break order when they think equality can be achieved with the assets available or the parties to a divorce are asking for it. However, there is a lot more to think about. How secure is your employment compared to your ex-partner's? Do you do the majority of the childcare and does this affect your ability to work? How much does it cost you to maintain the family home by yourself? Does your partner run their own business or earn more than you?

What other orders can courts make as part of a divorce?

A clean break order is normally made together with other orders which separate finances following a divorce. This can include orders: to pay a lump sum; to transfer or sell property or other assets; to share pensions or for maintenance.

What are periodical payments orders or maintenance?

The court could order that your ex-partner pays a monthly amount to you. This is known as a periodical payments order or maintenance. Many people will not pursue this as they prefer a clean break but they do not appreciate that not only is this in addition to child maintenance, it can go beyond the children leaving home, if your circumstances require it. It is variable so if something happens, for example you or one of your children becomes ill, the amount you receive can be varied, providing your ex-partner earns sufficient and the court thinks it is appropriate.

Do I need a pension sharing order?

The first priority for most people is to keep a home for themselves and the children. It is tempting in an attempt to agree a quick settlement and to bring things to an end to accept the house as a trade-off for a share in your ex-spouse's pension. However, pension benefits are complicated and can be more valuable than they look from the fund value. Do you know the difference between a final salary scheme and a private pension? Did you know an NHS pension or Police pension is far more valuable in terms of income than a private pension? Whilst this may not seem important in your 40s, in your 50s you may regret your decision.

Can I get top-up child maintenance from a court?

The Child Maintenance Service deals with most people's child maintenance payments but it is possible for the court to make orders topping up these assessments to pay for school fees or where the person making the payment earns over the threshold.

We are able to give you expert advice on maintenance, child maintenance payments, pension benefits and help you to access specialist advisers who can advise you on pension sharing if that is appropriate.

For more informations, please contact Jill Bruce, senior associate on 01872 243335 or email