What is a Divorce Petition?

06 December 2018

The document used to start the divorce process is an application for a divorce, civil partnership dissolution or judicial separation form, which is commonly referred to as a divorce petition. This form must be completed if you are applying to the court for a divorce because your marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The person who completes and submits the application is called the Petitioner, and their spouse will therefore be the Respondent. The divorce petition is sent to the Court at the beginning of the divorce proceedings, and will provide information about you and your spouse, your marriage and the reason why you are getting divorced.

Information to Include on the Divorce Petition

The Petitioner will need to provide their full name and address on the form, along with their spouse's. If either person has changed their name since the marriage began, they will need to provide proof of the name change along with the divorce petition (such as a change of name deed). The Petitioner will also need to state why the courts of England and Wales have jurisdiction to deal with the divorce proceedings, such as that one or both people live in England or Wales.

The Petitioner will need to give details of their marriage, such as the date of the wedding and how each person's name appears on the marriage certificate. The marriage certificate or a certified copy will accompany the divorce petition to the Court, so the Petitioner should ensure that they have the marriage certificate in their possession, otherwise they will need to order a copy.

Grounds for Divorce

In England and Wales, there is only one ground for divorce and that is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to establish this ground, the person submitting the divorce petition to the court needs to state one of five facts (or reasons) for this breakdown.

These are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Separated for two years (with consent)
  5. Separated for five years

If the Petitioner is relying on two or five years' separation, they will need to provide the Court with the date of separation, and the date that they concluded that the marriage was at an end. Both of these dates must be at least two or five years ago, depending on which fact is being relied upon. If the Petitioner is relying on two years' separation, the Petitioner will also need to ensure that their spouse will consent to the divorce.

If the Petitioner is relying on either adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion they will need to provide details to the Court to support this. For adultery, details will need to be provided of when the Petitioner found out about the adultery, and if known, the date(s) of when the adultery happened.

For unreasonable behaviour, four or five examples will need to be provided of the Respondent's behaviour, to the extent that it is now intolerable for the Petitioner to remain with the Respondent. Examples should include the most recent and those that affected the Petitioner the most. The Petitioner cannot give examples of their own behaviour.

Desertion is very rarely relied upon in divorce, but the Petitioner will need to provide details of when their spouse deserted them, the circumstances surrounding this, and confirm that the two of them have lived separately since this date.

Financial Matters

The divorce petition also asks whether the Petitioner intends to deal with matrimonial finances. Financial matters in divorce are dealt with separately to the divorce proceedings, and without a financial order in place, the financial ties between the parties are not severed. This means there is a risk that one person could make a claim against the other's assets in the future.

Note that ticking this section of the divorce petition will not automatically start financial proceedings, and a separate application will need to be made to the Court in respect of this.

The Petitioner also has an opportunity to state if they wish to claim the costs of the divorce from the Respondent. They should tick this box if they wish for the other party to contribute to their divorce costs or pay them in full.

Finally, the Petitioner must sign a statement of truth on the last page, in order to confirm to the Court that the facts stated within the petition are true.

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