What Happens if My Spouse Doesn’t Want a Divorce?

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To get a no-fault divorce in England and Wales, either party can make a statement of irretrievable breakdown, which will be conclusive evidence for the court to make an order for divorce. A no-fault divorce can also be made as a joint application by both parties.

If a wife wishes to divorce her husband, she can, even if he objects and does not need to assign blame. In the same way, if a husband wishes to divorce his wife, he can, even if she objects, and also does not need to assign blame.

Removing blame means that there is an increased likelihood of resolving divorce matters outside of court and provides a more collaborative and efficient approach between parties and solicitors.

Can I still get divorced if my spouse won’t agree?

In short, yes. You only need to make a statement that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, which will be all the court requires to make an order for divorce.

There is a 20-week cooling-off period from the time of the divorce application which allows both parties to agree practical arrangements about the separation, finances and any children. Once 20 weeks has elapsed, the court grants a conditional order. After a further period of six weeks and one day, the applicant (or both parties in the case of a joint application) can apply for a final order.

What if I don’t know where my spouse is?

For service of the divorce application to be deemed valid, the court now accepts service by email. The court can serve the application via email, or, if the applicant, requests it, they can serve it. If the applicant serves the application, it must be completed by adhering to the Methods of Service table which can be found on the court website.

If serving via email, it must be sent to either:

a) The respondent’s usual email address, or
b) The email address provided by the respondent for the purposes of being served with the proceedings.

If I am the respondent, what do I have to do?

The court will email you the divorce application and an acknowledgement of service which you must complete within 14 days of receiving it. It will ask you questions like whether you have read the application for divorce, the date you received it, and whether you intend to dispute the divorce.

You can only dispute a divorce if you believe the court does not have the jurisdiction to deal with it, if you can prove the marriage was never valid or if the marriage has already legally ended. If you decide to dispute the divorce on any of these grounds, you will need to submit an ‘answer’ on another form giving your reason for dispute the divorce. You have 21 days to submit your answer and reason for disputing it from the date of the acknowledgement of service filed on you. If you fail to submit your answer by the deadline, your spouse will usually be able to continue with the divorce as if you did not dispute it. This is because the court will accept the statement of irretrievable breakdown as conclusive proof that the marriage has broken down.

What if we have been married for less than a year?

You cannot get divorced if you have been married for less than one year.

In this instance you can get a separation agreement or legal separation, to agree the terms of how you might want to separate before you actually get a divorce.

A legal (or ‘judicial’) separation allows you to separate without getting divorced. You and your spouse can make formal decisions about finances and living arrangements, but you will remain married. This is an option if you have been married for less than one year.

 


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