If you start divorce proceedings and your spouse chooses to defend the divorce, or you need to defend divorce proceedings started by your spouse, having the right legal advice and support is essential.
Bird & Co’s family law team work with clients all over the country on both defended and undefended divorces from our offices in Grantham, Newark and Lincoln. We are highly experienced in dealing with divorces in court, but also have strong skills in non-confrontational dispute resolution. This means we can often bring even the most complex and contentious divorces to an amicable conclusion, saving you time and money.
We can help with the entire process of dealing with a defended divorce, from responding to a divorce petition to negotiating with your spouse to finding a way forward you can both agree to if possible. We can also represent you in court proceedings where required, helping to achieve a fair outcome that protects your interests.
We know how difficult it can be dealing with contentious divorce proceedings, so offer friendly, empathetic and highly practical advice and support to make the process as easy as we can.
Our divorce lawyers can also advise you on all of the other issues that typically arise in relation to divorce, including making a financial settlement and sorting out arrangements for children.
If your spouse does not intend to challenge your divorce, our team are also highly experienced undefended divorce.
Speak to one of our divorce solicitors today by calling 01476 404 113 or use the contact form on the right and we will get back to you promptly.
How a defended divorce works
The standard defended divorce procedure is as follows:
Filing for divorce – The spouse who wishes to end the marriage will need to fill out a divorce petition and submit this to the relevant family court. The petition will explain the reasons why the petitioning spouse believes the marriage has broken down. As of May 2018, you can now do this online as well as through the post.
Responding to the divorce petition – After the court receives the divorce petition, they will send a copy to the non-petitioning spouse. They will then have 8 days in which to respond, stating whether they wish to contest the divorce or not.
If the responding spouse wishes to defend the divorce, they will then have a further 21 days to explain why they wish to do so.
Attending a court hearing – If the divorce is defended, both spouses will usually need to attend a court hearing in front of a judge, unless a private agreement can be reached between the couple before the assigned hearing date.
The judge will then hear evidence from both sides and make a decision as to whether to grant the divorce or not. If you are unhappy with the judge’s decision, you may be able to make an appeal to a higher court, depending on the circumstances.
If the judge decides to grant the divorce – They will issue a document known as a ‘decree nisi’. This officially states that the court sees no reason why the divorce cannot go ahead.
If the judge decides not to grant the divorce – The petitioning spouse will either need to accept this, appeal the decision to a higher court, or apply again with a fresh divorce petition.
The new petition will need to give stronger reasons for the divorce. In the worst case scenario, this will mean waiting until the couple have been separated for at least 5 years, at which point either spouse can apply for and be granted a divorce without the other’s consent.
Applying for a decree absolute – Once the decree nisi has been issued, you will need to wait at least 43 days and you can then apply to the court for a decree absolute. This is the final legal document that confirms your marriage is officially over.
How long does a defended divorce take?
This will entirely depend on the circumstances, with the biggest factor often being how long you have to wait for a hearing date.
To ensure the process goes ahead as quickly as possible, it is strongly recommended to work with a team, such as ours, that has strong experience with defended divorces. In many cases, we are able to negotiate an agreement between you and your spouse, allowing the divorce to move forward in a way that both parties can accept.
We can also ensure that all of the relevant paperwork is handled quickly, efficiently and accurately, preventing any unnecessary delays in the divorce process.
How much does a defended divorce cost?
While we can often provide a fixed fee divorce service for undefended divorces, for defended divorces it is usually harder to give an exact price at the outset as proceedings are often a lot more complicated and unpredictable.
For this reason, we will usually agree an hourly rate and give an estimate of the likely costs. We will then keep you regularly updated about any and all expenditure, helping you to keep control of the cost.
To find out more about our hourly rates and for an indication of the likely costs involved in a defended divorce, please contact us for a quote.
Why do people choose to defend a divorce?
The reasons someone might choose to defend a divorce vary, but there are three main reasons that come up most often:
- To delay the divorce and try to save the marriage
This sometimes happens if the respondent believes their spouse has given up on the marriage too easily and there may still be an opportunity to reconcile.
This type of objection can frequently be resolved by both spouses sitting down to discuss the issues in the marriage, often with the help of a professional.
It may be that the petitioning spouse is then willing to give the marriage another chance or try a trial separation first, or that the responding spouse is able to see that the marriage is truly over.
- To submit their own petition
This can occur if the responding spouse believes that the reasons for the failure of the marriage are different from those stated by the petitioning spouse in their divorce petition.
An example of this might be where the petitioning spouse has claimed that their partner spent too much time away from the family home or failed to provide emotional support, whereas the responding spouse believes their partner was unfaithful.
Again, such issues can often be resolved by careful negotiation between the two spouses with the right professional advice and support, allowing the divorce to go ahead in a way both parties can accept.
- To dispute the reasons given for the divorce in the petition –
In a similar vein, the responding spouse may wish to defend the divorce if they simply disagree with the reasons given in the divorce petition. For example, it may have been claimed that they were unfaithful or were guilty of domestic abuse, which they may dispute.
In such a situation, the responding spouse may be unwilling to admit to such behaviour, even if they are otherwise happy for the marriage to end.
Modifying the petition to focus on reasons that a court will accept for the divorce and that the responding spouse will not object to can therefore often allow such a dispute to be resolved so the divorce can move ahead.
How can a good family lawyer help to avoid a defended divorce?
While we have the experience and skills needed to guide you through a defended divorce where required, it is usually better to avoid this situation wherever possible. Our expert divorce lawyers can advise you from the outset on how to help your divorce go ahead while minimising the chances of your spouse raising an objection and holding up proceedings.
In many cases, the sticking point with a divorce is the reasons given in the divorce petition for breakdown of the relationship. While you have to make sure the reasons stated are sufficient to convince a court that the relationship is truly over, you should also be careful to avoid anything your spouse is likely to object to, if at all possible.
The accepted reasons for divorce under English law are:
Adultery – If your spouse is unfaithful with a member of the opposite sex (same-sex infidelity is currently counted as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ instead).
Desertion – If your spouse leaves you for at least 2 out of the last 2.5 years without your agreement, without a good reason and with the intention to end your relationship.
Separation for 2 or more years – If you and your spouse have lived separately for at least 2 years. However, this is only a valid reason if your spouse agrees to the divorce.
Separation for 5 or more years – If you and your spouse have lived separately for at least 5 years. This reason can be used whether your spouse agrees to the divorce or not.
Unreasonable behaviour – If you feel you can no longer reasonably be expected to live with your spouse.
Unreasonable behaviour is the most commonly used reason for a divorce and often the best option when you want to get divorced quickly. This is because it does not require you to wait a set amount of time and most people will be less likely to object to this than to a claim of adultery, as long as you pick the examples of unreasonable behaviour carefully.
Our divorce lawyers can advise you on selecting the best reasons to use in your divorce petition, that both a court and your spouse are likely to accept, helping proceedings to move ahead smoothly.
Our expertise in both undefended and defended divorce
Bird & Co’s divorce solicitors are highly experienced in both defended and undefended divorce, with decades of experience across our team. We can provide the clear, empathetic advice and support you need to make the divorce process as simple and straightforward as possible, allowing you to smoothly and quickly move on with your life.
As well as guiding you through the legal process of ending your marriage, we can also assist with all of the practical issues that tend to arise during a divorce. This includes making a financial settlement and arrangements for any children you have. We can also advise you on the use of any pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement you entered into and how this may impact your financial settlement.
Individual members of our family law team include Estelle Conron, an accredited specialist with the Law Society’s Children Panel, and Sally Tarlton-Weatherall, who is accredited by Resolution with specialisms in complex financial remedies and domestic abuse. Their expertise, combined with the knowledge and skills of the rest of our team, mean we can successful guide you through even the most complex divorce issues, helping you to avoid the need for court action wherever possible.
Bird & Co has achieved the Law Society’s Lexcel accreditation for our excellent legal and professional standards and we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).