How to stop a spouse dragging out a divorce (UK)

The standard time for divorce is around 7 months from application to final order. However, there are a number of factors that can extend this period, such as trying to reach a financial settlement. So in this article, we’ll discuss how long a spouse can stall a divorce and what you can do about it.

If you are experiencing issues during your divorce and you feel you need legal advice to resolve matters, contact specialist family solicitor Maria Coster of Stowe Family Law. Maria has an excellent record in family law matters as well as being involved in a number of complex cases involving issues such as domestic violence, substance misuse, and parental alienation.

How do I avoid my ex dragging out the divorce?

If you believe your spouse will drag out the divorce, it is important that you are the one who begins the divorce application. This gives you more control of the process. If your spouse objects to a divorce, it is now much harder for them to do so unless they say the court does not have jurisdiction because you do not live in England or Wales.

However, there are a number of practical things you could do that might persuade your ex to cooperate with the divorce:

  • Speak with your ex and give them advanced warning that you are applying for a divorce
  • If you separated a while ago, make sure you have their correct and/or current address
  • If your ex fails to respond to the divorce application, contact them to find out why. It may just be an oversight
  • To reduce any incidences of conflict, try to avoid face-to-face meetings as much as possible and focus on moving forward rather than looking back.
  • Ask your ex if they would attend mediation. This not only keeps you in control of any agreements reached, but it also helps couples resolve their issues amicably and in a non-confrontational manner.

If all else fails, keep a log of the all the delaying tactics employed by your ex in case it becomes relevant at a later date. This will also help your solicitor run your case as smoothly as possible and maybe even anticipate the other party’s actions along the way.

What if my ex is delaying the financial negotiations?

There are times when a spouse will say they want to amicably resolve the finances but then delay. Although some delays in attending meetings or mediation may be understandable, you should think about whether the delay has become unreasonable and if they are using negotiations as a tactic to draw things out.

If there is a significant delay, you may decide the only way out of the deadlock is to apply to court for a financial settlement. That way, the case works to the court’s timetable. You can still negotiate in the meantime, but court proceedings should help prevent your ex from continuing to delay matters for their own ends.


What are the examples of a spouse dragging out a divorce?

There is a 26 week wait time between the divorce application and the final order, and if finances or children matters have to be resolved, it can take a lot longer. Most solicitors advise waiting to apply for the final divorce order until the finances have been concluded. But in addition to such legal technicalities, your spouse can actively drag out the divorce process in several ways. Here we set out the most common:

  • Not getting involved in court work, returning documents late, ignoring meetings, or not responding to your/their solicitor
  • Ignores calls and messages regarding court hearings
  • Not providing full and frank financial disclosure, or not disclosing anything at all
  • Expecting impossibly high returns in court
  • Refusing to discuss child arrangements, or constantly changing what is agreed
  • Refusing to engage with the process at all

It is difficult to understand the reasons for a spouse wanting to delay the divorce, particularly when this has the potential to increase costs. Perhaps they have hidden personal reasons and don’t want to get divorced or hope to achieve a better settlement. Either way, delaying matters is only likely to achieve an increase in costs and stress. Theirs and yours.

Common reasons for delaying a divorce include:

  • They are controlling the process to control you
  • They refuse to accept the marriage is over
  • They know you want a fast divorce and are delaying proceedings to be vindictive, especially if you are planning to remarry
  • They do not want to leave the family home
  • They cannot bear to leave the children and not see them every day
  • If they think you are due to receive an inheritance, large bonus, or big pay rise, and hope to benefit from it as part of the financial proceedings

What are the consequences of dragging out a divorce?

Delaying a divorce can affect your health and mental wellbeing; it can be draining, and at times, is an emotional rollercoaster. This not only adversely affects the former couple, but also any children caught in the middle of the dispute.

Delays to your assets being divided can mean that the first steps towards getting your life back on track are derailed. For example, imagine you have found the perfect property to begin again but are relying on the funds from the sale of the former family home to achieve this. Any delay could mean the home is not sold fast enough, so you miss out on the new place.

The longer a divorce takes, the more it tends to cost. Whilst agreeing fixed fees can help reduce the overall costs, it doesn’t guarantee how much you will pay for the divorce itself. Other elements, such as financial negotiations, agreements, and child arrangements, are likely to be charged based on the amount of time spent taking instructions, preparing documents, and representing you in court. Essentially, the more you can do to avoid court and agree matters, the less you will be required to pay.

If you are concerned that your spouse is using delaying tactics, you should speak to a family law solicitor about the reasons for the delay and what you can do about it. Whilst there is little that you can practically do to resolve some of the causes, it is in everyone’s interest to resolve matters as quickly as possible.

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