Contested Divorce

19 Dec 2018


What is a contested divorce?

A contested divorce is also known as a defended divorce. Most divorces are not contested, and the process is straightforward. A defended divorce is where one spouse does not agree with the divorce which can be complicated and lengthen the divorce process.

What happens if a divorce is contested?

If a Respondent (the person responding to the divorce) wishes to contest the divorce they will then have one month to submit their ‘Answer’ (this month runs from the date the acknowledgement of service is submitted to the court). The purpose of the ‘Answer’ (which is like a statement) is to detail the reasons for defending the divorce. If the Answer is not filed within the month then the divorce application will proceed as though uncontested.

Why could a divorce be contested?

People choose to defend a divorce for many reasons. They may believe that the marriage has not irretrievably broken down, or they may not agree with the reason given by the Petitioner in the Divorce Petition. When you start divorce proceedings, you must specify one of five reasons why you are seeking a Divorce:

  1. One party has committed adultery;
  2. One party has behaved unreasonably such that the parties cannot be expected to continue living together;
  3. One party has deserted the other for a period of 2 or more years;
  4. The parties have been separated for a period of 2 or more years AND both consent to the divorce;
  5. The parties have been separated for a period of 5 or more years

Hepburn Delaney’s experienced team can advise you if your spouse does not agree with the divorce, or the reason you are relying on. We can also support you if you are not in agreement with the divorce.

Will I have to go to Court if a divorce is contested?

A contested divorce will usually involve the divorcing couple having to attend Court for hearings. The Court will probably want both people to give evidence. Hepburn Delaney will manage the Court process with you and make sure that you are prepared to speak to the court, if necessary.

How common are contested divorce cases?

It is not common for a divorce to be contested, and even when if it is, it is often difficult to successfully defend the divorce and persuade the Court not to allow it to go through. The process can be very expensive and often futile.

Whilst rare, some divorces are still successfully defended. Recently a case was heard by the Supreme Court, Owens v Owens (2017) EWCA CIV 182, In this case Mrs Owens petitioned for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. Her husband challenged this saying he felt that the marriage had not broken down and the couple “still had a few years of old age together”. The Judge rejected the examples that Mrs Owens gave of her husband’s behaviour saying that they were to be “expected in a marriage”.

Hepburn Delaney are experienced in all areas of divorce and separation. If you think your spouse might contest your divorce application, if you are not sure you agree with a divorce, or if you would like general advice about divorce, we can help you. Please call our team now to discuss on 01442 218090 or contact us