In this section we explain the different financial orders a court can make. Courts can make one or more of these at the same time.
An order for maintenance pending suit
‘Maintenance’ is money paid to help support you or your ex. ‘Pending suit’ means that the money is paid in the short term, up until the case is finished or the court makes a different order. Maintenance is paid regularly at a particular time, for example, monthly. After decree absolute or final order it is called ‘interim maintenance’ until the court makes a periodical payments order.
Periodical payments order
‘Periodical payments’ is another word for maintenance. ‘Periodical’ just means the money is paid regularly at a particular time, for example, monthly. The difference between ‘maintenance pending suit’ and a ‘periodical payments order’ is that a ‘periodical payments order’ provides for maintenance to go on being paid after your financial case is over. The amount paid can be the same as or different to the amount paid as maintenance pending suit.
The court will specify either that the periodical payments order continues until you or your ex dies or the person getting the maintenance remarries or registers a new civil partnership; or that the periodical payments order ends at a specific point in the future, which you may hear referred to as a ‘term order’.
If you get a term order, you may be able to ask the court to extend the length (term) of the order as long as you do this before the time period runs out and there is no court order preventing an extension.
Once a court makes a periodical payments order, you or your ex can make a new application to the court to change (vary) the amount paid. If you are the person paying the maintenance, you might want to do this, for example, if you lose your job and so cannot afford the payments. If you are the person getting maintenance, you might want to do this, for example, if your ex gets a large pay rise so could afford to pay more in maintenance, or you lose your job or have serious ill-health so you are unable to work and need more maintenance.
Secured provision order
This is also an order for maintenance but one where the person paying the money has to give some security. A security is a right over something valuable belonging to them, for example an investment property or inheritance. This means that if they do not pay the maintenance, the person who was due to get it has another way of getting the money they are owed. These orders are very rare.
Lump sum order
This is an order that you or your ex pay a fixed amount of money, for example £2,000 or £20,000. The court can order you or your ex to pay a lump sum in one go or in instalments. The court can only make this kind of order if you or your ex has the money to pay it.
Property adjustment order
This order sets out what is to happen to any property you and your ex own separately or together, for example, your home, the contents of your home or a car.
The court can make a wide variety of property adjustment orders. For example, it can transfer property from you to your ex or from your ex to you or order the sale of a property and divide the profit between you equally or in a different way. The court can also transfer a tenancy (including council and housing association tenancies), for example, from your joint names into your sole name or the sole name of your ex.
If your ex is the sole owner or sole tenant of the family home, then it is critical you do not formally end your relationship by getting your decree absolute or final order before you transfer the tenancy or ownership of the family home into your name – if that is what you want. This is a tricky area. If you are in this position, get some legal advice as soon as possible. See More help and advice - financial order.
Pension sharing order
This order sets out what percentage, if any, of a pension belonging to you or your ex must be transferred to the other.
Pension attachment order
This order sets out what proportion of any pension income or lump sum belonging to you or your ex must be paid to the other.
Pension compensation sharing order
This is an order stating that any compensation from the Pension Protection Fund must be shared.
Pension compensation attachment order
If you or your ex are due compensation from the Pension Protection Fund, this order sets out what percentage of it must be paid directly to the other.
This is an order for a minimal amount of maintenance (for example 1p a year) to be paid. If you get a nominal order, this keeps open the possibility of asking for more in the future if your or your ex’s circumstances change, for example, because of your redundancy, serious ill-health or disability, or because your ex gets a large pay rise.
The court will specify either that the order continues until you or your ex dies or the person getting the maintenance remarries or registers a new civil partnership; or that the order ends at a specific point in the future, which you may hear referred to as a ‘term order’. You may be able to ask the court to extend the length (term) of the order as long as you do this before the time period runs out and there is no court order preventing an extension.
Clean break order
This order makes clear that your financial responsibility for each other is over. This means neither of you has to pay maintenance to the other on an ongoing basis. It usually also means that you cannot ask to inherit anything from your ex if they die. These orders are only suitable when there is enough money to make both of you self sufficient. The court will consider whether to make this kind of order in every case. It is not always the right thing to do; whether the court makes one in your case will depend on your individual circumstances.
Payment for legal services order
This is an order that you or your ex pay the other money to help with the legal costs of applying for a financial order. Legal costs are what you spend on a lawyer.
The court will only make this kind of order if the person who asks for the order can show that they have no other way of paying for their legal costs, for example, by getting a loan. The court will not make an order if it means that the person due to pay will end up not being able to pay their own legal fees or if it would cause them undue hardship.
When can a court make a financial order?
Courts can make interim and final orders. An interim order is an order to help support you while the financial proceedings are going on. A court can make an interim order, for example, for maintenance, at any time after you start your application for a financial order and before the final hearing. However there are limits to what a court can do during this time. For example, a court cannot make an interim property adjustment order.
A final order is an order made at the end of the financial proceedings. A court cannot make a final order until you or your ex have got a decree nisi or conditional order. A decree nisi is the order that confirms you are entitled to a divorce. A conditional order is the order that confirms you are entitled to end your civil partnership. And the final financial order cannot come into effect until the decree nisi has been made absolute or the conditional order final. At this point your marriage or civil partnership is officially at an end.
Planning to remarry or register a new civil partnership?
- Any maintenance you get for yourself from your ex will stop if you remarry or register a new civil partnership. Maintenance for children is different: this does not stop if you remarry or register a new civil partnership.
- If you have not already applied for financial help for yourself from your ex before you remarry or register a new civil partnership, it is too late! It is best to sort out your finances first, before you remarry or register a new civil partnership, because you cannot apply afterwards.