Can I defend a divorce?

Whilst it is possible to defend a divorce, the reality is, is that it is very hard and almost impossible to get a successful outcome. You have to think very carefully about what you will ultimately achieve and what your goal is.

What is a defended divorce?

Your spouse has issued a divorce petition either at court or online. Once processed, the petition will be sent to you together with an Acknowledgment of Service form. This document has to be completed and signed by you and returned to the court.

Within the Acknowledgment of Service form, the questions will be asking whether you intend to defend the petition. If you wish to defend it then you have to tick yes. You need to be aware that there are strict timelines within which you have to say that you wish to defend and then return the form.

What happens if I defend a divorce?

The court will receive your form then note that it is a defended divorce petition. What usually happens is that a short hearing will then be listed before a Judge to ask for further details and possibly arrange the filing of evidence in the form of statements before listing the matter for a contested hearing. At that contested hearing a Judge will make a decision as to whether the marriage should be dissolved.

How long does a defended divorce take?

On average, a defended divorce may take between 6 – 9 months but it depends on the complexity of the case and any court delays. 

What is the cost of a defended divorce?

It is important that you think at the outset what your goals are. A defended divorce petition can cost a significant amount of money if you are legally represented.

Also at the end of the day if you are unsuccessful then the court can, and probably will make an order for costs against you to pay your spouse’s costs. You can read more about divorce costs here.

Is it worth defending a divorce?

Defending a divorce basically means that you are saying that the marriage is not at an end. The difficultly for any defence is that a judge hearing the case will be faced with one person who says that the marriage is over and the other person saying it isn’t.

Clearly it takes two to make a successful marriage work, which is why I mentioned at the outset it is possible to defend a petition but hard to have a successful outcome.

How do I defend a divorce on grounds of unreasonable behaviour?

Defended petitions are very very rare. What we do see more of in practice however is where a spouse has for example issued a petition based on behaviour and then the other party objects to those behavioural grounds or feels very strongly that they have grounds themselves to have issued the petition. 

What can then happen is that you can indicate on the Acknowledgement of Service that you wish to defend the petition but then issue your own cross-petition putting your allegations of behavioural in your own petition before the court.

Ultimately many clients take the view that the marriage is at an end and given the fact that it has no implications whatsoever with regards to arrangements for children or finances as to who issues the petition and who is the Respondent, then petitions usually proceed undefended. 

Most, if not all, Respondents deny behavioural allegations against them within the Acknowledgment of Service and that forms part of the court record indicating that you accept the marriage is over but do not accept the allegations made.

Get in touch 

If you would like any advice on defending a divorce or other family law issues please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 

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