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Contested Divorce

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When you are facing a contested divorce, it can feel as if you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. That is not a good place to be, whether you want to start divorce proceedings and your spouse refuses to agree to a divorce or you have received a divorce petition in the post and want to oppose it.

The good news is that the majority of divorcing couples who think that they will end up in contested divorce proceedings find a resolution after taking specialist divorce legal advice. That is because, in most situations, a husband and wife agree that their marriage has irretrievably broken down but cannot agree on the basis of the divorce proceedings or the financial settlement or childcare and custody of their children. 


Contact OTS Solicitors

To speak to a divorce solicitor about starting contested divorce proceedings or to oppose a divorce call us on 0203 959 9123 for a discussion about how OTS Solicitors can help you. Alternatively, contact us through our online enquiry form.


If you have received a divorce petition, you should act now if you want to contest the divorce or want legal advice on your best options. Delay in seeking legal advice and completing the divorce paperwork may mean that you cannot oppose the divorce.   


Contested divorce process

The process of getting divorced is broadly the same, whether it is an agreed divorce or a contested divorce. However if the divorce is a contested divorce it will:

  • Take a lot longer to complete than an agreed divorce;

  • Cost a lot more in legal fees;

  • Be necessary to attend at least one or two divorce court hearings and give evidence.


The contested divorce process involves:

  • The petitioner starting divorce proceedings by lodging a divorce petition and supporting paperwork at court;

  • The divorce court then issues the divorce proceedings and sends a copy of the divorce petition to the respondent husband or wife;

  • The respondent completes an acknowledgement form stating that they do not agree to a divorce. There is a deadline (seven working days) to fill the acknowledgement of service form in. Delay in completing the form means the respondent may not be able to contest the divorce;

  • The respondent , within a court-imposed time limit of twenty-one days, then has to file a document called “an answer” setting out why the divorce petition   is opposed;

  • The petitioner may then file “a response” to the answer;

  • The family court can list the divorce proceedings for a directions hearing to consider what orders and evidence will be needed at any final hearing of the contested divorce;

  • At the final hearing of the contested divorce, the court decides if it is satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce. If the court grants the petition, the decree nisi of divorce is pronounced. The decree nisi does not finalise the divorce proceedings;

  • After just over 6 weeks have elapsed from the date of the decree nisi, the petitioner can apply for the decree absolute of divorce. The decree absolute is the official divorce document that ends the marriage.


Alternatives to a contested divorce

Divorce solicitors try to avoid contested divorce proceedings, wherever possible, because of the legal costs involved in a contested divorce. The court will also encourage a husband and wife to try to reach an agreement over divorce proceedings.


Alternatives to contested divorce proceedings include:

  • If divorce proceedings have already been started the petitioner could potentially amend the divorce petition so the contents are more acceptable to the respondent husband or wife;

  • The respondent could cross-petition for divorce;

  • The respondent could say that whilst they do not agree with the contents of the petitioner’s divorce petition and will object and argue the points if any of the allegations are raised in any subsequent financial settlement or children proceedings , they will not actually object to the divorce;

  • The petitioner could decide to wait and start divorce proceedings after they have been separated from their husband or wife for five years or longer and do not need their spouse’s consent to a divorce. It is best to take legal advice before deciding to defer starting divorce proceedings. Delay may not be in your financial interests. For example, if you fear your spouse is hiding assets, your spouse is at risk of bankruptcy or that your financial circumstances will improve and theirs may deteriorate. An example of a change in personal and financial circumstances is that you may receive an inheritance whereas your spouse’s business might fold and go under.


Costs and contested divorce proceedings   

Contested divorce proceedings can be expensive and time consuming. There is also a risk that if you lose the contested divorce case the court may order you to pay your husband or wife's legal costs, in addition to your own.


As contested divorces are more expensive, traumatic and lengthier than an agreed divorce, the court and London divorce solicitors will normally encourage compromise and agreement. That is because you and your spouse could end up spending a lot of money arguing about the reasons for the breakdown of your marriage, when the money could be better spent in resolving the “real issues”, such as custody, contact and child arrangements order court proceedings or to secure a financial settlement and financial court order. 


If you are contemplating contested divorce proceedings, it is vital that you take specialist legal advice to make sure that a divorce solicitor helps you explore all your options and gets the best result for you. That is because every family situation is different and in some scenarios, such as international families and high net worth divorce, it may be in your best interests to contest the divorce proceedings based on lack of court jurisdiction or other grounds.


OTS divorce solicitors 

For expert legal advice on UK contested divorce and family law, contact OTS London divorce solicitors today for an informal chat on how divorce solicitor, Behzad Sharmin, and the dedicated divorce team can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or alternatively, contact us using our online enquiry form.    

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