It is always deeply unpleasant to be on the receiving end of a divorce petition. Few respondents (the person who has received the divorce petition) accept the tenor of particulars detailing incidents of alleged unreasonable behaviour. Most perceive them to be overemphasized embellishments exaggerated by a spouse who spuriously seeks to claim emotional distress over the trials of the marriage. Whilst affronted by the perceived injustice of the situation, most are pragmatic enough to allow the divorce process to continue on the basis the marriage has irretrievably broken down and there is little to be gained by expensive hearings to apportion blame. However, what if this is not the case and you what to challenge a divorce petition?
How can you challenge a divorce?
If a respondent wishes to attempt to stop the divorce, they should give notice of intention to defend. This is usually done by returning the acknowledgment of service form they received from the court with the petition. There are seven days to do this inclusive of the day they received the petition.
The respondent must then file an Answer within 28 days from receipt of the petition (inclusive of the day of receipt itself). This document will form the basis of your evidence to the court so it’s important to get guidance from a specialist family solicitor as to content.
Once the court receives the Answer, the case becomes defended and is listed for a case management hearing at which the Judge may direct the filing of further evidence.
The case will then be listed for a hearing where oral evidence is heard. At this hearing, the Judge will usually decide whether a decree of divorce should be granted. This hearing is usually in an open court, unless there are specified circumstances.
If there are factual inaccuracies with the petition a defence should successfully stop the divorce process. For example, if the Judge finds that the act of adultery has not taken place or that the behaviour complained of was so innocuous as to amount to minor altercations expected in a marriage.
This may prove to be an expensive and hollow victory. It takes two willing participants to make a marriage work. A marriage in law and a marriage in spirit can be very different things.
For advice on how to challenge a divorce petition or any other family matters, please contact Anita Scorah, in our Family Law team on 01625 442123.