In England and Wales there is a no-fault divorce regime. This means respondents to a divorce application can’t contest it. This contrasts with countries where divorce is based on the idea of fault. In these jurisdictions, a person seeking divorce can allege that his or her spouse or civil partner has committed adultery, has deserted the marital home or has behaved unreasonably. In such circumstances the respondent has the right to defend the allegations.
That said, respondents to a no-fault divorce application do have the ability to dispute the contents of a divorce application on the following grounds:
- Nullity – a respondent may bring nullity proceedings by, for example, claiming that the marriage or civil partnership was never consummated or that it was entered into without proper consent.
- Jurisdiction – it’s possible to argue that the application cannot be brought before an English court because the applicant and/or respondent is not habitually resident in the UK or lacks the required domicile to divorce here. Succeeding in transferring the proceedings to another jurisdiction may have a significant impact on financial proceedings and the child arrangements that are put in place following the divorce.
- Validity and fraud – if the legal stipulations for a valid marriage were not met, including age and witness requirements or if some kind of fraud induced either party to enter the marriage, then the marriage can be declared invalid
How Do I Dispute A Divorce Application?
If a respondent wishes to dispute a no-fault divorce application, he or she must indicate his or her intention to do so when returning the acknowledgment of service form to the court. A full explanation of the reasons for disputing the application must then be filed at court. This ‘answer’ to the application must be lodged at court within 21 days, beginning with the date by which the acknowledgment of service is required to be filed under the procedural steps.
It’s worth noting that the no-fault system of divorce is designed to reduce areas of conflict and dispute that arise when a relationship breaks down. The grounds for disputing a divorce application that we have outlined are, in practical terms, very limited. In our experience instances where a divorce application is disputed are relatively rare.
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