Contested Divorce: What You Need To Know

What is a contested divorce?

A contested divorce comes about when one spouse does not agree with the decision to start divorce proceedings.

Can you contest a divorce?

A spouse can only contest a divorce if the court does not have jurisdiction to deal with the case, the marriage is not valid, or the marriage has already legally ended.

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The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020), which was enacted to remove the requirement for separating couples to provide grounds for divorce such as unreasonable behaviour or adultery, means that a spouse cannot contest a divorce because they disagree with it.

Now spouses can apply jointly or individually for a no-fault divorce in which they need only say there has been an irretrievable breakdown in their relationship without apportioning blame or giving any reasons.

Why can’t I contest a divorce?

Before the reforms, the divorce process could be stressful and acrimonious for many couples. One of the reasons for this was that the application process forced spouses to cite a reason for their divorce, which looked a lot like finger pointing. At a time when emotions are already running high, this requirement could often intensify bad feelings between separating spouses and result in one partner contesting a divorce to prevent it from going ahead.

There are many reasons why this is far from ideal. Separating couples should not be encouraged to point fingers but rather focus agreeing on child arrangements and finances before parting amicably - or at least as amicably as possible.

However, the requirement for one spouse to essentially blame the other for the breakdown of their marriage often got people’s backs up and encouraged tit for tat behaviour, which inevitably escalates over time.

There’s also a key consideration here in relation to domestic abuse. The ability to contest a divorce potentially gave abusers the power to trap their victims in the relationship.

With the reforms, a respondent cannot disagree with the divorce. Whether they want it or not, it will go ahead providing the marriage is valid and the court has the jurisdiction to do so.

When can I contest a divorce?

You can contest a divorce within 14 days of receiving the acknowledgement of service on the grounds that:

  1. The courts in England and Wales don’t have the jurisdiction (power) to deal with the case. (i.e. If you or your partner live abroad);

  2. The marriage or civil partnership is not valid (i.e. you didn’t say the right wedding vows or sign the marriage certificate);

  3. The marriage or civil partnership has already legally ended (i.e. you’ve already got divorced in another country).

The above are the only valid reasons why you can contest a divorce. There is no way to force a spouse to remain married to you under any circumstances.

If you have questions about the divorce process and your options as either an applicant or a respondent, an expert divorce lawyer can help.

Lawhive’s experienced divorce solicitors are on hand to provide support and guidance, whether you need advice on contesting a divorce or coming to an agreement on your finances or child arrangements. To get started, simply tell us about your case for an instant fixed-fee quote from the best solicitor for your case.

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