Can a Divorce Be Refused?

30 January 2017

It's very unlikely that your divorce will be refused in the English Divorce Courts. This differs to other countries, as demonstrated recently when a man from Poland took his case to the European Court of Human Rights, after the Polish authorities refused to grant him a divorce.

Divorce Refused in European Court of Human Rights

In the case of Babiarz v Poland, Mr Babiarz married his wife in 1997, he later formed a relationship with another woman, eventually leaving the marital home in 2005 to live with her. They had a child and have been together ever since.

Wanting to re-marry, Mr Babiarz filed for divorce in 2006 but his wife objected. The divorce was therefore refused. This is because under Polish law a divorce will not be granted if:

  • The request has been made by the person responsible for the breakdown of the marriage, and
  • The other person refuses consent, and
  • The other person's refusal is not 'contrary to the reasonable principles of social existence'.

After an unsuccessful appeal, Mr Babiarz felt compelled to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. He argued that his right to marry, and his right to respect for his private and family life, had been violated. Again, his case was unsuccessful.

Of the seven Judges who heard his case, five found that his rights had not been breached. They concluded that he had clearly been responsible for the breakdown of the marriage, his wife was entitled to refuse consent under Polish law, and this refusal was not unreasonable.

Although two Judges found in his favour, the majority found against, meaning Mr Babiarz remains married to his estranged wife.

A Divorce Could Be Refused by an English Court

Whilst it would be really very unusual for a divorce to be refused by a Court in England or Wales, it is theoretically possible in certain circumstances.

Specifically, a Court can refuse a divorce if the Petitioner (the person who has filed for the divorce) is relying on five years' separation, and the Respondent (the person who has not filed for the divorce) argues that the dissolution of the marriage is wrong because it would cause him/her to suffer grave hardship.

Grave hardship typically relates to financial difficulties, so often these cases can be resolved through a financial arrangement that would prevent the Respondent's suffering.

There are other reasons why a person may object to a divorce. This is known as a Defended or Contested Divorce. For example, someone may object to the grounds for divorce being used, which can include adultery and unreasonable behaviour. However, usually it's not the actual divorce that is disputed, but the arrangements regarding finances, child care and property.

Where there are disputes during a divorce, Mediation can be a useful tool to help the parties reach an agreement. If this is not possible, the matter can be taken to Court where a Judge will make a final decision.

Once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work to be done, that price will not change.

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