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What happens if your spouse won't agree to divorce?

Going through the divorce process can be a difficult and emotional time for everyone involved, but it can become even more challenging if your partner decides to defend the divorce.

A defended divorce happens when the respondent to a divorce petition does not accept that the marriage has broken down or disputes the reasons given in the petition for the failure of the marriage.

Although defended divorces are rare, if your spouse does choose to contest the divorce, it will tend to make things more costly and mean the process is likely to take significantly longer.

It is therefore worth knowing the common reasons why someone might choose to defend a divorce, so you can avoid this wherever possible. If your spouse has already decided to contest your divorce, it may be reassuring to know that this can normally still be dealt with outside of a court and how this works.

Reasons why your spouse might defend the divorce petition

Currently in the UK, there are 5 reasons you can give for wanting to end your marriage:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Living apart for more than 2 years
  • Living apart for 5 years or more

If your spouse does not agree with the reason you have provided or believes it to be untrue, this may result in a defended divorce. It’s important to choose your grounds for divorce carefully as grounds such as adultery may increase the probability of your spouse defending the divorce.

Alternatively, your spouse may be concerned about falling into financial hardship after your assets have been divided or they may even wish to submit a cross-petition for divorce based on their own reasons.

The process for defended divorces

Once you have submitted your divorce petition to your local family court, stating your reasons, your spouse will then have 8 days to respond, stating whether they intend to defend the divorce or not. If they do intend to defend the divorce, they have 21 days to submit their reasons to the court.

If your spouse defends your divorce petition, it is possible that you will have to attend court and have a hearing in front of a judge before your divorce can go ahead. At this hearing, you and your spouse will need to present your arguments along with any supporting evidence.

However, even when a divorce is defended, there are various options for resolving things outside of a court, meaning you can usually avoid a court hearing in most cases.

How to avoid the courts for your divorce

It may be possible to get your spouse to change their mind and therefore avoid having to go to court by using non-confrontational dispute resolution. You will usually be required to at least consider this before taking your divorce before a judge.

Divorce mediation is the most common and popular method of resolving various issues surrounding the divorce. This involves you and your spouse sitting down with a neutral third-party, or mediator, to help you come to an agreement.

Collaborative law is a popular alternative to mediation often used where there are more complex issues to resolve. You will sit down with your spouse to agree a way forward, each with the support of your own independent lawyers who can help you to navigate any particularly challenging issues.

Get support from our expert divorce lawyers for both defended and undefended divorce

Crisp & Co have a dedicated team of divorce lawyers, several of whom are members of Resolution – a group of family lawyers committed to removing conflict from family law.

We strongly believe in non-confrontational dispute resolution and will work hard to ensure that, however your divorce progresses, we can help you get a fair outcome that is in the best interests of you and your loved ones.

Get in touch with one of our divorce lawyers today by calling 020 3281 7886 or by filling in the form below.

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