Thursday, November 15, 2012

Family Lore Clinic: 'I signed on statement of information for a consent order that I would not cohabit'


Another query about the Statement of information form that must be filed with consent orders setting out agreed financial/property settlements on divorce/dissolution of civil partnerships (see this earlier Family Lore Clinic post). It is not clear whether the person raising the query is concerned that they lied on the form, or concerned that since signing it they have decided to cohabit. I will cover both possibilities.

The form requires both parties to state whether they are cohabiting with another person, or whether they have any intention at present to do so. Accordingly if, at the date they signed the form, they had no such intention then they obviously did not lie, even if they subsequently decided to cohabit. The form does not ask you to promise that you will not cohabit in the future, only whether you have any present intention to do so.

Of course, if you stated on the form that you were not cohabiting when you were, or that you had no intention to cohabit when you did, then that is a lie and can result in proceedings being brought against you for contempt of court.

What if you did not lie, but subsequently decided to cohabit - would that affect the financial/property settlement contained in the consent order? The answer, as so often, is: 'it depends'.

Firstly, it depends upon whether your cohabitation would have any bearing on the settlement. This, in turn, depends upon the circumstances, but it is certainly not automatic that it will have a bearing - often, it will not.

Secondly, it depends upon how long after the consent order was made that the cohabitation takes place. If it is very quickly (say, within a few months), then it could have a bearing and the consent order could be set aside. If, on the other hand, it is longer than that then it is unlikely to have a bearing.

(As usual, this is necessarily a simplification of the law. If you require more details or specific advice, you should consult a specialist family lawyer.)

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