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What do you do if your spouse starts divorce proceedings against you?

Monday, 31 March 2014

If your husband or wife starts divorce proceedings against you, then chances are that you are expecting it as there needs to have been an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage for a divorce to be granted. However, if it does come as a complete surprise then you may be in a state of shock and not know what to do. The following provides a brief overview of what to expect.

Working businessmanIf your spouse starts divorce proceedings against you, you are known as the Respondent. You will receive a divorce petition from the court, a notice of proceedings and an acknowledgement of service form. The notice of proceedings form tells you your case number and what you should do next. It is very important that you respond by filling in the acknowledgement of service form. If you don’t do this within 21 days, your spouse will be able to continue with the divorce as if you’ve agreed. If you receive a divorce petition it is strongly advised that you use a solicitor. They can advise you regarding your rights, finances, children, and ensure that everything happens correctly. To read about the services that Rollingsons’ Family Law team provide regarding divorce and separation, please visit

You can respond by either agreeing with the divorce, disagreeing with the divorce, or alternatively begin your own divorce proceedings. To agree with the divorce petition, you simply fill in the acknowledgement of service form, return it to the court within 8 days, and the divorce will go ahead. If you agree on the reasons for a divorce, how to look after any children and how to divide the money, property and possessions then the divorce should be pretty straightforward and you won’t have to go to court.

If you disagree with the divorce, you still fill in the acknowledgement of service form as above, but you also fill in the part which says that you will be defending the divorce. The divorce then becomes a contested divorce of which the court will subsequently notify your spouse. You then have 21 days after returning the form to say why you are defending the divorce by filling in the answer to a divorce petition, which is called “giving an answer”. You may have to pay the court a £245 fee. Alternatively, if you decide to start your own divorce proceedings against your spouse if you believe they are responsible for any of the grounds for divorce you will need to fill in a divorce petition form and may have to pay the court £410. If a divorce is defended or if both sides file divorce petitions, there will be a court hearing and you and your spouse will have to attend to try to come to an agreement over the divorce.

To read more about the divorce process, please go to to read our guide to divorce.

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