Could I Be Divorced and Not Know?

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On the face of it this may sound like an unusual question, but in fact in some cases, yes it is possible for you to be divorced without your knowledge.


The reason for this is because a divorce petition does not always require the other party to respond in order for the divorce to be granted by the Court.

In order to grant a divorce in England and Wales, the law requires the Petitioner (the person requesting the divorce) to prove that the relationship has broken down to a point where it cannot be saved.

There are five accepted reasons for this relationship breakdown:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • 2 years’ separation (with the agreement of both parties)
  • 5 years’ separation (without the agreement of both parties)

If your spouse wished to divorce you on the grounds of ‘desertion’, then you would not necessarily have to consent to the divorce.

If the Petitioner can prove that you have deserted them, and that they have made reasonable attempts to contact you, the Court may agree to the divorce without you (the Respondent) having agreed to this.

The same is true if your spouse is petitioning for a divorce on the basis of five years’ separation. If your spouse could not locate or contact you, it is possible for you to be divorced by your spouse without your knowledge.

In both the above cases, attempts will be made to contact you and to notify you of the divorce proceedings. You may not respond if you have moved away, but typically, thorough efforts will be ade to try and locate you before the divorce proceeds

The other situation in which you could be divorced by your spouse without your knowledge is on the basis of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

This is because a petition on the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ does not require you to complete and return the ‘acknowledgement of service’ from the Court. This is a form in which you confirm you have received the divorce petition. You or your solicitor can then respond to this.

It is possible, for example, that your refusal to reply to any correspondence that you have received could be cited as a contributing factor to your unreasonable behaviour. Or, it may be in your spouse’s interests not to correspond with you if you have behaved in a violent or aggressive manner.

If your spouse is petitioning for divorce on the basis of adultery or two years’ separation, then you cannot be divorced without knowing about it. That is because, in these circumstances, you or your solicitor has to complete and return the ‘acknowledgement of service’.

Your spouse can only apply to the Court to finalise the divorce once you have completed and returned these forms. Of course if you do not return the paperwork, your spouse could prefer to divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour where your consent may not be required, as explained above.

Can I find out if I am divorced?

Yes. To find out whether you are divorced you should contact the individual county Court where you believe the divorce would have been heard.

If you don’t know which county the potential divorce is likely to have taken place in, you can ask the Central Family Court to search for a Decree Absolute or final order.

You need to complete a form (found on the government website) and pay an administration fee. The fee is charged ‘per ten-year period searched’.


Do you need help with your divorce?

Get in touch now with one of our panel of specialist local family solicitors.

If relevant, please include below the name of the other party (so the solicitor can check they have not already provided advice to your partner):

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