Regardless of whether the separation between you and your spouse is amicable, receiving a divorce petition either through the post or being personally served can be a very distressing and unnerving time.
People often ask themselves; what now, what are my next steps?
This article will address the initial steps that you should take on receiving as petition and the pitfalls which you should look to avoid.
1. Did you receive a draft petition?
If your spouse has a solicitor, then pursuant to the Resolution Code of Conduct you should be forwarded a draft petition for consideration and so that you have the opportunity should your so chose, to suggest changes to the petition so that the document that is eventually filed with the Court is done so on an agreed basis.
However, what if you have not received a draft, what next?
2. Reading and responding to the divorce petition
The petition itself is a relatively straightforward document and whilst you should pay attention to the minor details I.e. dates of birth, place of residence, I would strongly advise that you read carefully part 6 of the petition, the ‘Statements of Case’.
Ask yourself, do you agree with the contents contained therein? Is what your spouse saying about you correct? Do you feel the allegations are unjust and do not reflect the reality of the situation.
If you do not agree with the ‘Statements of Case’, what are your options?
1. You could write to your spouse or their solicitor (if instructed) and ask them to amend the petition. In doing so, you could maybe suggest particulars in which you feel are more appropriate.
If the petition has already been issued by the Courts, amending a petition will have cost implications for the petitioner. The court fee is £90 and there are likely to be solicitor’s costs. However, these costs should be borne solely by the petitioner.
2. You could defend the petition and file an ‘Answer’ and ‘Cross Petition’ against your spouse.
When you are served with a petition, you should also receive from the Court an ‘Acknowledgment of Service’. Again, this is a relatively straightforward document and asks you to confirm, for example:
A) Have you received the petition?
B) On what date and to what address did you receive the petition?
C) Do you agree with the jurisdiction for divorce?
D) Are you intending to defend the divorce?
E) Do you agree to meet your spouses costs?
If you are going to defend the divorce, then within 8 days of receiving the petition you should file with the Court the Acknowledgement of Service, indicating your intention to do so. You then have a further 21 days to file an ‘Answer’. The court fee for filling an Answer is £245
Generally, we advise our clients not to defend a petition, but it very much depends on the circumstances of the case. Defending a petition has adverse cost consequences for both parties and in reality it simply delays the inevitable. Aside from your own costs, you could also be responsible for your spouse’s costs, particularly if your reasons for wanting to defend the petition are unmerited.
Before deciding what step to take, you should be aware that the petition itself will have no future bearing on the other aspects of your case i.e. finances. In financial proceedings, for conduct to be taken into account, it has to be considered ‘inequitable to disregard’ and filing a petition with allegations that you do not agree with is not sufficient.
3. Costs of a divorce petition
It is standard practice for a petitioner to claim costs of the divorce proceedings against the respondent.
You have two options:
1. Write to your spouse or their solicitor, asking them to confirm their costs. You may want to ask them to provide a ‘Schedule of Costs’. Providing they appear reasonable you could agree to meet half of their associated costs. If your case is relatively straightforward, I would not anticipate costs being any more than £1250 plus VAT (this also includes the court fee of £410).
2. On the ‘Acknowledgment of Service’ it asks whether you agree to meeting the petitioner’s costs. If you do object then say so; it is good practice to say why you object I.e. my spouse did not provide me with a draft petition and whilst I do not intend to defend the divorce as I do not agree with the ‘Statement of Case’, I object to paying costs.
If you do not state your position with regard to costs, then they will be determined by the courts.
4. What about the finances, how will these be divided?
Whilst not the focus of this short article, financial proceedings are considered entirely separate from divorce proceedings.
Even if you are the Respondent in the divorce proceedings, this does not prevent you from issuing financial proceedings or instigating financial negotiations; this is something you might want to consider.
5. Next Steps
If you have received a petition and would like specialist matrimonial advise then please do not hesitate to contact Rayden Solicitors. All of our solicitors are members of Resolution and would be happy to discuss your case with you.
Areas of Family Law We Cover
- Financial Claims on Divorce
- Financial Arbitration
- The Family Business and Relationship Breakdown
- Family Trusts, Partnerships and Assets Held Offshore
- Civil Partnership Dissolution
- Unmarried Couples and Relationship Breakdown
- Pre-nuptial and Post-nuptial Agreements
- Expat and International Divorce Law
- Tax Implications of Divorce and Separation
- Collaborative Law
- Children and Relationship Breakdown
- Step-parent Adoption
- Grandparents’ Rights
- Domestic Violence
- Surrogacy Law