What to do if you have been named as the respondent in divorce proceedings?

The first thing to do is to not panic.

You are going to be presented with legal terms and antiquated expressions, that you may not understand.

Rule this, rule that, ancillary relief, matrimonial causes act etc.

Don’t worry, we will explain what these things mean so you can make an informed decision, but from now on you will be referred to, simply as “the respondent”.

You can call us for free information on 01793 384 029.

1) You don’t agree with the allegations in the divorce petition – what can you do?

If you are confronted with allegations that are false in your view, you have a number of choices going forward.

Firstly, you can defend the petition and ask for it to be struck out – This is expensive and not many people go down this route.

You will need to get advice on whether this route is appropriate and worth it financially.

If you want to get divorced but do not like what the petitioner has said about you as the respondent, you can do what they do in the USA and essentially “plead the fifth”.

This means you say that you do not intend to defend the divorce, but that you do not agree with the allegations.

This allows the divorce to go through undefended but without any findings of fact having been made by the court.

If there are minor errors such as incorrect dates, spellings or names, you can ask the petitioner to amend them and if they won’t you can tell the court what the errors are and they will be forced to change them.

2) Will the Court take behaviour allegations into account when deciding financial matters?

The court will not take any allegations about a spouse’s behaviour into account unless it is conduct, which should be taken into account because it would not be fair to leave it out.

The possible types of conduct fall into roughly three categories:

  • Financial misconduct – e.g. if a spouse gambled away the family money or fraud.
  • Litigation misconduct – e.g. if a spouse was obstructive or dishonest in court proceedings.
  • Other misconduct which would need to be extreme to be taken into account – examples from past cases are murder, sexual abuse of grandchildren or violent assault to the extent of disabling the spouse.

3) We haven’t sorted out the finances yet – does that mean the divorce has to stop?

In England and Wales, the process for divorce, financial matters, and any disputes relating to the children are all dealt with separately in separate proceedings sometimes in different courts.

It is possible to get a divorce before reaching an agreement (or getting a court order from a judge) about financial matters.

However, there may be a number of reasons to wait until you have a financial agreement before getting the decree absolute.

For example, if one spouse were to die before a financial agreement were reached, as this may affect any death benefit from pensions and life insurance policies.

4) The divorce petition says I have to respond within 7 days – what happens if I don’t respond in time?

The reason for sending back the Acknowledgement of Service is so that the Petitioner can  prove to the court  that you have received the petition before they can take any further steps in the divorce procedure.

If the Acknowledgement of Service is deliberately not returned or ignored, it can be proved by arranging for the petition to be re-delivered to you personally.

Alternatively, they can seek a court order dispensing with the need to prove the petition was received by you.

So if you don’t return it quite on time, it may mean a slight delay before the divorce can proceed to decree nisi stage.

If you believe this to be the case with your divorce situation, please call us on 01793 384 029 for a free consultation.

5) My spouse seems to be asking for every possible type of financial remedy in the divorce petition

Please calm down and breathe!

It is standard procedure for all the boxes to be ticked for financial matters on the divorce petition, to enable both parties to either ask the court for orders or where agreement is reached for an order to be made by consent.

This does not mean that your spouse is actually trying to claim for all the different financial remedies listed there.

6) Do I have to pay my spouse’s legal fees and costs?

If a claim for costs has been made in the divorce petition, then you will have to pay their costs, which will include any solicitor’s fees and court costs.

You can object to this but it will involve a hearing and you may have to then pay for the costs of that hearing as well.

If your spouse does not have a solicitor then you will only have to pay the court fees.

As part of any negotiation always try and have the costs removed before the petition is issued, or if after issue, they will ned to be amended.

7) How long will the divorce take?

Generally speaking the average time for a divorce to conclude is about 33 weeks in England and Wales.

We at Divorce-Online, generally complete a divorce case within 16-20 weeks, which is much quicker than the national average, but it does depend on several factors.

It could be less or more depending on the court centre used and whether each side causes delays in the paperwork being dealt with.

Do not under any circumstances book a new wedding until you have got your final decree in your hand.

Read our blog post to find out how long a divorce takes when both parties agree.

Received a divorce petition and want help responding?

The good news is that we can help you for a low cost fee compared to solicitors.

Divorce-Online have a low-cost service for people who have been served with a divorce petition and want help and advice with responding to it.

The same level of service with local solicitors typically costs £400+VAT – Save over 50% with our service.

View our Respondent in Divorce Service for £199.

Our service will provide you with legal representation on the court record.

We will complete on your behalf an Acknowledgement of Service form protecting your interests in relation to children and financial matters) and return the form to the court.

This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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