Can I defend a divorce?

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Our divorce team frequently get asked, ‘can I defend a divorce?’. While the simple answer to this is that a divorce petition can be defended, the reality is that defended divorce is rare.

What are divorce proceedings?

Divorce proceedings are initiated when one spouse submits a divorce petition. As the law currently stands (November 2018) you must show that a marriage has irretrievably broken down in order to gain a divorce. The reasons for the breakdown are given in the divorce petition. There are five factors:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years separation (with consent)
  • Five years separation (without consent)

The spouse who issues the petition is known as the ‘petitioner’, while the other spouse is the ‘respondent’.

If you are the respondent and you receive a divorce petition that you strongly disagree with you can defend the proceedings.

Do I need a solicitor to defend a divorce?

You are not obliged to appoint a solicitor, but as defending a divorce will involve complex and technical legal principles we would recommend that you seek specialist legal advice before you do so.

We operate a free legal helpline. We are happy to give initial guidance to you so that you make an informed decision. We can consider whether there are any other alternative courses of action open to you that might be more appropriate.

What do I need to do to defend a divorce?

First, you must notify the court of your intention to defend the divorce proceedings. You can do this by sending the court the ‘acknowledgement of service’ form indicating that you wish to defend. You must then file your defence. It is important to note that strict time limits apply.

The divorce will be listed for a preliminary hearing. The court will then decide how matters should proceed from there.

What are the risks of defending a divorce?

A divorce shouldn’t be defended without very good reason. It is difficult to defend divorce proceedings and successful cases are few and far between. There is a very real risk that you will only succeed in incurring unnecessary legal costs and dragging out a stressful situation. We would therefore urge you to think twice before committing to this course of action.

How we can help

We have a team of specialist divorce solicitors covering Devon and Somerset, with offices in Barnstaple Bideford, Braunton, Taunton and South Molton. You are welcome to call our free legal helpline on 0808 139 1606 or send an email to us at [email protected]