English family law strongly encourages reaching agreements in family disputes. This may be through mediation, solicitor negotiation or in other ways. Invariably it follows disclosure of the relevant facts. The agreement is then made into consent order by the court.

Occasionally, subsequent events show that the final settlement was unfair or unjust. This may be new and unexpected events occurring quickly after the final settlement which go to the entire basis upon which the settlement was agreed. It may be material non-disclosure by one party so that the facts relied on in reaching the settlement were incorrect. There may be other problems connected with the final order.

In these circumstances one party seeks to break or set aside the consent order. This is not an easy task. There is a very strong emphasis in English law on finality. Even when it is clear that there has been nondisclosure or unexpected events, it does not automatically mean the consent order will be set aside.

This guide is a summary to the background and circumstances on breaking and setting aside consent orders. Legal advice should always be taken.