I had an email yesterday from someone who had been talking about getting a divorce for several months. Her email said she wants to go ahead with her divorce, but she’s waiting to obtain funds as she knows “it’s going to be an expensive divorce“. She went on to say, “I think I mentioned previously that we’ll have to fight this process until the end as my ex will not cooperate.”
She is not alone with such thoughts, so I thought I’d write this article because that outcome is no longer a possibility. You don’t have to have an expensive divorce where you have to fight until the bitter end. The divorce law in England and Wales changed on the 6th of April, 2022. The new law, amongst other things, prevents your spouse from defending against your divorce application.
The problem of divorcing a difficult husband or wife
Previously, if you used unreasonable behaviour, your ex-husband or wife could defend against your allegation. However, they had to prove your allegations weren’t true, putting the expense in the initial stages on them.
Adultery was more problematic. If your spouse defended against your claim, you had to prove that adultery had taken place, which is difficult and puts the court costs squarely in your corner.
You needed your husband or wife’s consent to divorce using two years of separation. So all a disgruntled spouse had to do to stop a divorce when using two years of separation as grounds for divorce would be to say no.
Under the old divorce law, the only ground that wasn’t defendable was five years of separation – although a difficult spouse could argue that you were together and you weren’t actually separated for five years.
Under the old divorce law, all of these grounds could lead to an expensive court case should your ex-husband or wife choose to be difficult.
With the new divorce law, you don’t have to cite examples of behaviour or prove that you live apart. All you need to do is make a statement that the marriage has ‘irretrievably’ broken down. In other words, your marriage has broken down, and it can’t be resolved.
How the court prevents fraudulent divorce cases
The new divorce process is similar to the old law in that once you file for the divorce and you’ve said that your marriage has broken down, your husband or wife will receive the divorce papers stating that you want to divorce them. The letter will tell them that the marriage has broken down, and it will ask them to acknowledge receipt of the divorce papers (known as acknowledging the ‘service’). Your ex has to do this because the court wants to make sure that every recipient of a divorce application is aware of it.
As you can imagine, there’d be a considerable amount of fraudulent divorce cases if that rule weren’t in place.
The acknowledgement of service requirement aims to satisfy the court that there is an awareness of the divorce.
However, this is the area where your ex could be difficult. While your ex cannot defend against a divorce petition now, they can be difficult and choose to ignore the papers.
If they ignore the papers, the court doesn’t know if your ex is aware of the divorce petition and your divorce will stop without your ex’s involvement under the normal process.
Can a difficult spouse really stop your divorce?
Going back to the email, the lady’s concern was that her divorce would be expensive because she would have to fight to the end. Let’s examine if this belief remains true in light of the new divorce law.
It is expensive to have solicitors send emails and letters backwards and forwards between two parties, arranging court hearings, and having representation at the court. All of this adds up to a five-figure legal bill. However, under the new law, there is no legal basis to defend a divorce, therefore, there’s no reason to go to court. It wouldn’t get to court because there’s nothing to defend against and nothing to debate. The law clearly states that if at least one person in a marriage believes it’s broken down, they can get a divorce.
If you have a difficult spouse, you won’t have to pay tens of thousands of pounds fighting your divorce through the courts. However, they can ignore the divorce papers, but that can be resolved fairly inexpensively. At Easy Online Divorce, we instruct a bailiff or a process server to serve the divorce papers on the difficult spouse to resolve this situation.
How a bailiff can help deal with a difficult spouse
If your husband or the wife fails to respond to your divorce petition within 30 days of receiving the acknowledgement of service, the court will contact us to say that your spouse hasn’t responded. With the court’s permission, we use a bailiff or a process server to serve the papers on your ex. Once the bailiff has handed your ex the papers, we have to give them another 30 days to acknowledge the service.
If they still continue to be awkward and ignore the papers, we can then write to the judge to tell them that your spouse is aware of the divorce, using the bailiff as evidence that they have received them.
With this evidence, we can ask the judge to allow us to continue with the divorce without your spouse’s involvement. The judge grants permission, and we can continue with your divorce with no further involvement from your difficult ex.
The true cost of dealing with a difficult ex
In terms of the cost of this, our fully managed divorce is £249. We always proceed on the basis that a spouse is going to respond. Even when you have an outwardly hostile spouse saying, “I’m not going sign the papers” or “I’m not going divorce you”, when they receive the divorce papers, they tend to sign. In fact, the percentage where we have to get a bailiff or a process server to serve the documents is less than 1%.
In cases where a spouse does choose to ignore the divorce papers, and we have to use a bailiff, the additional cost to manage that process is £449. So, in the worst-case scenario of your spouse ignoring the papers, your divorce will cost you a total of £698.
Of course, this is no small sum, and it’s money that you would obviously rather not spend, but it is nowhere near as expensive as it could be under the old law.
Just remember that these are our fixed transparent prices. If you went to a traditional high street solicitor for the same service, you would be looking at £2,500 and over.
I hope this article has helped. Quite often, people are paralysed and cannot move forward with their lives because they think their difficult ex will prove to be too great an obstacle to overcome. But that’s not the case. When you start to look into it and understand the options and the possibilities, hopefully, you realise that these fears are unfounded and there is a way to proceed without spending thousands in a ridiculous legal battle.
In the best-case scenario where your ex is cooperative, your divorce will cost £249, while in the worst-case scenario with a difficult spouse, a divorce will cost £698. If you have any questions about this article or divorce in general, please email us or give us a call on 02045308101.