Respondents no longer have the ability to contest a divorce. However, they can still contest the divorce application on some legal grounds.
Can I contest a divorce?
Since new divorce laws were introduced in April 2022, it is no longer possible to contest a divorce.
If your husband or wife filed for a divorce or civil partnership dissolution on or after April 6th 2022, you can only contest the divorce in exceptional legal circumstances. These include:
- Jurisdiction – if you of your partner live in another country, the courts in England and Wales may not be handle your application.
- If you can prove that the marriage or civil partnership was never valid. For example, if the marriage/civil partnership was not conducted in accordance with the laws of the country in which you married, meaning you did not enter into a legally legitimate marriage/civil partnership.
- If the marriage/civil partnership has already legally ended. For example, if you’ve already gone through divorce proceedings in another country.
If any of the reasons for contesting a divorce apply, you will need to file a response to the application explaining your reason for disputing the proceedings.
It is highly recommended you seek legal advice before responding to the divorce application.
Can I disagree with an application without contesting the divorce?
No. The only ground for divorce is that one or both parties believe the marriage has irretrievably broken down. No other facts have a bearing on the divorce process or outcome. As there are no longer any accusations of blame to challenge, any disagreement is irrelevant in UK divorce law.
How do I respond to a divorce application?
If your spouse has applied for divorce as a sole applicant, the court will send you (the respondent) a copy of the application by email, along with a follow-up letter. The email will include, the completed divorce application, the Notice of Proceedings, and the Acknowledgment of Service.
You will need to complete and return the Acknowledgment of Service to the court within 14 days of receipt of the application. To ensure you begin the process smoothly, your divorce solicitor can assist you with completing this document before it’s filed with the court.
How long does a divorce take?
On average, a divorce takes six-eight months.
Within the process, there are two compulsory waiting periods:
- A 20-week cooling-off period after the court has issued the application before the conditional order can be granted.
- A 6-week waiting period until you can apply to the court for a final order.
Furthermore, a lack of cooperation by one side, complicated financial concerns and/or child arrangements, and delays at divorce centres and family courts can all contribute to the length of a divorce.
Typically, it takes around a year to end a marriage and get a financial settlement.
What about any financial issues or child arrangements?
The process of divorce simply ends the marriage contract. Divorce does not resolve financial matters or child arrangements. These must be resolved separately. We recommend you take legal advice as early as possible to ensure that you achieve a fair outcome.
To make financial agreements legally binding, you must record them in a consent order that the court must approve.
How do we reach a financial settlement?
Ideally you and your ex-spouse will be able to discuss finances and negotiate a settlement between you. We recommend that you seek advice from a family lawyer to ensure that the agreement you reach doesn’t disadvantage you.
However if you need support with working towards a financial agreement, there are options including solicitor-led negotiation, mediation, collaborative family law or arbitration. Each of these options allow you and your ex-partner to retain control of the outcome and stay out of the family courts.
However, for some negotiation is not possible and mutual agreements simply cannot be reached. In cases like these you will need to make an application for a financial order to the court. This means a judge will consider all the facts of your case and make a decision on your behalf. Once a decision has been reached, the financial order is legally binding and remains valid unless you or your ex apply to the court for an amendment.
Clean break order
If you are divorcing and have no assets to divide, or financial commitments towards each other, you can cut financial ties between you and your ex-spouse by applying for a clean break order. A clean break order is a legally binding financial settlement agreed by both parties that prevents future financial claims against each other, including pensions, inheritance, or windfalls such as lottery wins.
Do I need legal advice for my divorce?
It is vital that you get expert legal advice from a family lawyer who will guide you through the divorce process and establish the best course of action for you. By speaking with our experienced family solicitors as early as possible, you can ensure that your interests are safeguarded from the outset.
A guide to the divorce process
Can you revisit a clean break order?