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While it is rare for a divorce to be defended (i.e. for the respondent to attempt to stop the divorce happening) where this does occur, it is essential to have the right legal advice and support to give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome.
Our divorce solicitors have extensive experience in defended divorce, with particular expertise in finding non-confrontational ways to resolve the situation to your benefit. This means that even if your former partner does try to fight the divorce, we can still usually help you find a way forward quickly, cost-effectively and with minimum stress, while ensuring your interests and those of your loved ones are not compromised.
We can support you through every aspect of the divorce process, from preparing your divorce application in the right way to minimise the chances of conflict, to finding amicable ways to resolve conflict and even representing you in court where this becomes necessary to achieve the right outcome.
We can also help you sort out all of the practical issues surrounding your divorce, such as reaching a financial settlement and deciding what will happen to any children you and your former partner have together.
With our expert advice and support, we can help make it easier to resolve even the most difficult of divorces, allowing you to end your marriage and move on and swiftly as possible.
For advice and support with any aspect of your divorce, please get in touch with our divorce solicitors in London and across the South East now by calling 020 3281 7885 or contact your local Crisp & Co office.
How the defended divorce procedure works
There are various stages to the divorce process. If the divorce is defended, this usually involves several additional steps which will likely end up making the process take longer and cost more for both parties.
It typically takes up to 6 months for a defended divorce, but it can happen sooner that this or you may have to wait longer depending on the circumstances.
Applying for a divorce – The first step in the divorce process is for one or both spouses to file for divorce with your local family court. It is a good idea to consult with a specialist divorce lawyer when doing this, to ensure the application is filled out correctly so you can minimise the chance of any delay and so they can advice you on the best grounds for divorce to use.
By picking the right grounds for divorce, you can reduce the likelihood of your former partner defending the divorce, while still ensuring the application is strong enough that it should be accepted by a judge.
Your spouse’s response – Your spouse will have 8 days to respond to the divorce petition once it has been filed. If they choose to defend the divorce, they will then have a further 21 days to respond to the petition explaining their reasons for doing so.
Court hearing – If your spouse decides to defend the divorce, you will likely have to go to court and have a hearing in front of a judge. You and your spouse will then both be able to present your arguments and any supporting evidence. The judge will then decide whether to grant the divorce or not.
It is strongly recommended to work with an experienced defended divorce solicitor during this time to make sure your case is presented in the strongest possible way. It may also be possible for your lawyer to negotiate with your ex-partner and their representatives to agree a way forward without the need for you to attend a hearing.
Decree nisi – If a judge decides that your divorce can go ahead, or your spouse can be convinced to withdraw their objection to the divorce, you will be granted a decree nisi. This is a court order stating that the court sees no reason your divorce should not go ahead.
Decree absolute – Once the decree nisi has been issued, you will need to wait at least 43 days and you will then be able to apply for a decree absolute. This is a court order that officially ends your marriage, meaning you are free to move on, including being able to marry again, if you wish.
Choosing the right grounds to minimise the chances of a defended divorce
There are five reasons you can give for wanting to end your marriage:
- Adultery – If your spouse has had sex with a person of the opposite sex outside of your marriage.
- Unreasonable behaviour – If your spouse’s behaviour means you can no longer reasonably live with them.
- 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.
- Living apart for more than 2 years – If your spouse agrees to the divorce.
- Living apart for more than 5 years – Whether your spouse agrees to the divorce or not.
Which grounds you choose to cite in your divorce application can significantly affect the likelihood of your spouse defending the divorce. In general, grounds like adultery or domestic abuse are more likely to be disputed, whereas reasons related to ‘unreasonable behaviour’ such as your spouse spending too much time at work or not providing emotional support are likely to be less contentious. However, this will entirely depend on the situation.
Non-confrontational dispute resolution for defended divorce
If your spouse chooses to defend the divorce, it can sometimes be possible to get them to change their mind by using non-confrontational dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and collaborative law.
This approach can also be used for agreeing the practical details of your divorce, such as making a financial settlement or arrangements for children.
Using non-confrontational dispute resolution will almost always be significantly faster, less expensive and involve less conflict and stress than relying on court action.
Divorce mediation – The most popular way to resolve a wide range of issues surrounding divorce, this involves you and your former partner meeting with a trained, neutral third-party known as a mediator to discuss the issues and agree a resolution.
You will usually have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to find out how mediation works and whether it might be right for your divorce before being allowed to take your divorce to court.
Collaborative law – A good choice where there are more complicated issues to resolve, this gives both parties the support of their own lawyers during negotiations. Each spouse and their respective lawyers sit down for a four-way meeting to discuss the points of contention and agree the necessary details of the divorce. This means that both spouses can have confidence that their interests are protected at all time, as well as having instant access to expert legal advice for any more complex issues.
Common questions about defended divorce
Why do people choose to defend a divorce?
There are various reasons someone might choose to defend a divorce, three of the most common are:
- To delay the divorce if they believe their spouse has given up on the marriage prematurely and might change their mind if given the chance to reconsider or look at options such as a trial separation.
- If the divorce petition contains accusations the respondent believes are seriously untrue, e.g. domestic abuse, especially if they believe accepting the allegations might have a bearing on issues such as arrangements for children.
- If the respondent wishes to cross-petition i.e. submit their own divorce petition. This might occur, for example, if the original petition states that the marriage broke down due to unreasonable behaviour, but the respondent believes it broken down due to the petitioner’s infidelity.
Why choose Crisp & Co for defended divorce?
Crisp & Co’s divorce lawyers have been helping people with all aspects of divorce, including defended divorce, for more than two decades. With a strong focus on non-confrontational dispute resolution, we are usually able to achieve an amicable outcome under even the most challenging and contentious of circumstances, making it faster, less expensive and much less stressful to get divorced.
Our team includes several members of Resolution - a group of family lawyers committed to removing the conflict from family law - and trained collaborative lawyers. The additional training and skills we can therefore offer means we can help to defuse conflict effectively, even in cases of defended divorce.
However, we also have a strong track record of success representing clients in court proceedings, meaning that however your divorce progresses, we can help you to get a fair outcome that protects your interests and those of your loved ones.
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