Defending Divorce - How it Works

03 January 2018

If your spouse wants to get a divorce and you disagree with this or with the reason that has been stated for the breakdown of your marriage, then you are legally entitled to defend it. However, a divorce should only be defended if you have a valid reason for doing so, otherwise you could spend a lot more money just to delay the divorce process.

When a couple divorce, one person will begin the divorce proceedings by submitting a ‘divorce petition’ to the Family Court or Divorce Centre. To get a divorce in England or Wales, it’s necessary to prove irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The divorce petition will outline the reason for this breakdown. For more information on the legally recognised reasons of marital breakdown, see Grounds for Divorce – Choosing the Right One.

Before the divorce petition is submitted, a draft will often be sent to the other spouse (known as the ‘Respondent’). This provides the Respondent with an opportunity to read through the petition. If the Respondent does not agree with the wording of the statement, or disputes a request for costs that has been made, then they can state this in writing before the formal divorce process begins.

This process also means that if you receive a divorce petition and you strongly disagree with the contents of this document, you will have the opportunity to defend these proceedings. It may be that you disagree with the facts alleged in the divorce petition, or it may be that you disagree with the reason given for the divorce. If the reason given is 5 years’ separation, it may be that you oppose the divorce on the basis that it could lead to financial (or other) hardship for you.

In order to defend the divorce, you will need to ensure that the correct forms are submitted, within the given timeframe. If you need help with this process, speak to one of our Divorce Solicitors who can provide guidance in a free initial consultation.

Defended Divorce Procedure – Step One

You can file a defence to divorce proceedings if you believe that getting a divorce will cause you hardship, or if you believe that the reasons given for the divorce stated are not accurate.

The Court must be notified that you have received the divorce petition and that you intend to defend the proceedings. To do this you will need to complete and return the ‘acknowledgement of service’ to the Court that issued the divorce petition within 7 days, saying that you wish to defend the proceedings. You will then be allowed 21 days to file your defence.

Defended Divorce Procedure – Step Two

When defending a divorce, the process is similar to the one that would have been followed when the divorce proceedings were started. The response to the divorce petition must be completed on the correct form and then filed so that it can be considered by the Court.

When you receive a divorce petition, this will usually have an information sheet enclosed which provides guidance on the required forms and advice on where these can be obtained. However, it is always a good idea to seek independent legal advice from a Divorce Lawyer before completing and submitting these forms, in case your disagreement can be resolved with your spouse another way.

Defended Divorce Procedure – Step Three

Once a divorce petition has been defended, the divorce must be listed for a ‘case management hearing’. This is a hearing which may take place when the case is particularly complicated, with a number of issues to consider.

At the case management hearing the Court might decide that further action should be taken or they may request further evidence to support the reasons for divorce that have been stated in the divorce petition. The Court may also request further information and evidence from you to support your objection and the claims that you have made.

Think Carefully before Defending Divorce

The Law Society does not encourage anyone to defend their divorce unless they have a sufficient reason for doing so. The reality is that it can be quite difficult to successfully prevent divorce proceedings, so defending a divorce without good reason can sometimes simply increase the costs and prolong the inevitable.

If you have received a petition and are considering defending the divorce, speak to one of our Divorce Lawyers, who can provide initial legal advice free of charge.

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