Can I Defend the Divorce?

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Yes, but when you defend (contest) a divorce, it can make proceedings long, messy, and almost always more expensive. So it’s important to ask yourself if it’s really worth it.

As the Respondent (the person responding to the divorce papers) you might have to admit fault even if you feel that you weren’t to blame for the divorce. This is because current Divorce Law in England and Wales states that when you get a divorce, the Petitioner (person issuing the divorce papers) must list one of the five grounds for divorce, which are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years’ separation and your spouse consents to the divorce
  • Five years’ separation

This means you’ll have to admit fault unless you’ve been separated for more than two years, and even then you’ll have to consent to the divorce in order for it to be finalised.

If you don’t consent to the divorce, your partner will have to wait five years before they can start divorce proceedings or issue the divorce on one of the fault-based grounds, for example unreasonable behaviour or adultery.

We understand that you might feel uneasy about taking the “blame” if you feel like you’re not at fault. But the truth is when you defend a divorce you will likely drag out the process and end up paying more in legal fees.

And if you never wanted the marriage to end in the first place, we know it can be a long journey to accepting the reality of your relationship breaking down. But denying the reality of your situation, won’t make your divorce any easier.

Our expert team of Divorce Solicitors have decades of experience in handling all kinds of divorce cases. We can support your through the process and advise you on how to handle your situation if you’re feeling defensive about your marriage breakdown, or if you don’t want to take on the blame.

Get in touch with our Divorce Solicitors for free initial legal advice.

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What Happens if I Contest the Divorce?

As the Respondent you’ll receive a copy of the divorce application with a form called an Acknowledgement of Service, which you’ll be asked to fill out* and send back within a certain time frame.

On this form there will be a question asking if you want to defend the divorce, to which you can simply answer yes or no. If you choose to defend the divorce it then becomes a Contested Divorce. You will have to provide an ‘answer to a divorce’ to the Court, which should outline your exact reasons for challenging the divorce.

Your reasons could be that you don’t agree with the reason for divorce and that the breakdown of the marriage was more your spouse’s fault that yours. Or that you don’t believe the breakdown of the marriage is irretrievable and there is a way back for you and your spouse.

When you contest a divorce, you’ll have to attend Court for a hearing and the Judge will decide if the divorce will go ahead. You and your partner will be asked to provide evidence for your case about whether the divorce should proceed.

*See How to Fill Out a Divorce Acknowledgement of Service Form

Should I Defend the Divorce?

Defending a divorce often doesn’t end well for the person defending it. In most cases, the Court will allow the divorce to go ahead anyway.

Let’s look at each scenario for why you might want to challenge the divorce:

  1. You Want to Save Your Marriage

If the petitioner is certain that they want a divorce and can show that they don’t want to be a part of the marriage anymore, then it’s likely the Judge will allow the divorce to proceed. If your partner has gone to the effort of applying for a divorce and paying the legal fees, then it’s going to be tough to prove that they are still committed enough for the relationship to make it work.

If you lose, you will also be ordered to pay your ex’s fees as well as your own. And the test on ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is subjective. This means that as long as your spouse sees the behaviour as unreasonable, it doesn’t matter if the Judge sees it this way or not.

We understand how emotional divorce can be, but once you come to terms with it you can move on much quicker. For advice on looking after your mental wellbeing when your marriage comes to an end, see How to Stay Emotionally Healthy through Divorce.

  1. You Don’t Agree with the Reason for Divorce

Most contested divorces are challenged because the Respondent doesn’t agree with the reason that their ex-partner used in the divorce application. But it’s important to remember that the reason for divorce doesn’t really matter.

The Court aren’t interested in what kind of unreasonable behaviour you or your partner may have committed. And the reason given for divorce does not affect how your assets and finances are divided. So no matter which of the five grounds for divorce your partner used, the outcome will still be the same.

It’s important that if you choose to defend a divorce you are prepared to put in the time, take on the emotional damage, and pay the extra costs.

If you’re sure you want to defend a divorce, speak to one of our specialist Divorce Solicitors. We can advise you on the best way to prepare your ‘answer to a divorce’ and can also represent you in Court if you’d like us to.

Some of our Divorce Solicitors are also members of Resolution, which means they are experts at reducing conflict between you and your ex. We might be able to help you settle any disputes before you pay any additional Court fees for defending your divorce.

Admitting Fault in Divorce

We know that it’s difficult having to take on the “blame” in divorce when you feel like you’re not at fault. Even the most amicable of separations can become more hostile when you have to read and admit to the reasons for the divorce on the divorce application.

But since the No Fault Divorce Bill passed its second reading in Parliament, we are hopeful that the future of Divorce Law means that you won’t have to play the blame game with your ex anymore. If the Bill is passed then divorcing couples can state the reason for their divorce as an irretrievable breakdown of their relationship, which will remove the added pressure of someone having to admit fault.

As we work towards this, it’s still important to remember that taking the blame won’t affect your financial outcome. So you should keep in mind that being the bigger person in divorce will often be most beneficial to you and your finances.

If you’re not happy with the way your divorce proceedings are going, speak to one of our Divorce Solicitors. We can help you bring your divorce proceedings to a close and will advise you every step of the way.

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