What is a divorce petition?

8 Mar 2020

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In order to end your marriage in England or Wales, you will need to make an application to the Court. This is done using a legal document called a divorce petition, and it is the first stage in the divorce process. Here we’ll will explain what you need to do before submitting a divorce petition, what information you need to provide for the Court, and what happens next.

Grounds for divorce: what you need to complete a divorce petition

In England and Wales, getting divorced is not currently as straightforward as simply deciding to part and signing the documents. You can not get divorced if you have been married for less than a year. A marriage can also only be ended if there are legal grounds for divorce. These can be any of the following:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery (with a person of the opposite sex)
  • Desertion (one partner left the other at least 2 years ago at the time of the petition)
  • Living apart for at least 2 years (if you both agree to the divorce)
  • Living apart for at least 5 years (if only one partner wants the divorce).

Importantly, the person filing for divorce (the petitioner) cannot use their own unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion as grounds for divorce – only that of their spouse (the respondent).

A new ‘no-fault’ divorce law is set to change this in the near future: for up-to-date details, you can find out more about the grounds for divorce on the gov.uk website.

Applying for a divorce using Form D8

If you have grounds for divorce, the next step is to submit a divorce petition. To do this, you will need to fill in Form D8, which allows you to apply for a divorce, dissolution, (judicial) separation or separation order. This can be done online or by post.

You’ll need to pay the Court fee (currently £550) to cover the costs of the petition.

What information is required as part of a divorce application?

When filing your divorce petition, you will need to provide:

  • Details about the marriage, including the respondent’s full name and address, and your original marriage certificate
  • Reasons for the divorce (and supporting information). For example, if you are petitioning for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, you will need to write down some instances of this. Unreasonable behaviour can include serious issues like domestic abuse, but milder behaviours like working long hours and no longer sharing a bed can also be valid examples.

The next step: What happens after the divorce petition

After Form D8 is submitted with all the details of your divorce petition, the Court will process it and send a confirmation to the petitioner that it has been received. It will be sent to the respondent, who must sign it and send it back within the stipulated time frame.

What happens next depends on whether the respondent agrees to the divorce petition.

  • If they agree, they simply sign the papers and return them to the Court, and you can move on to apply for a decree nisi.
  • If they do not accept the grounds for divorce, or that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, they can choose to ‘defend’ the petition, arguing against the points in the petition they disagree with. This can be costly and time-consuming, and legal advice is recommended.
  • The respondent may also ignore the petition. If this happens, there are a number of things you can do – it’s advisable to talk to a family law Solicitor about how to proceed.

How can a Solicitor help with the divorce petition application?

Whether or not your divorce is amicable, getting the advice of a Solicitor is the best way to put things in action smoothly. They can advise on the wording of your divorce petition to ensure that your divorce can go forward as cheaply and quickly as possible.

If you need help with a divorce petition, or your spouse has filed a divorce petition against you, contact our Solicitors for advice. We can guide you through your divorce and offer legal advice at every stage of the process.