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Can a Spouse Delay Divorce Proceedings in England and Wales?

Can a spouse delay divorce proceedings in England and Wales

Divorce can be a stressful and emotionally draining process, and when one spouse decides to delay the proceedings, it can make the situation even more challenging. Understanding how a spouse can delay a divorce and what steps you can take to mitigate these delays is crucial for ensuring a smoother transition. This article will explain the divorce process in England and Wales, the potential delays that can arise, and what you can do to keep the process moving forward.

Why Would a Spouse Delay No-Fault Divorce Proceedings?

Several factors can affect your spouse’s decision to delay your divorce proceedings. Emotional factors, such as anger, resentment, or a desire for revenge, may drive a spouse to prolong the process to exert control or inflict emotional harm on the other party. Additionally, financial considerations, such as disputes over asset division or spousal support, can lead a spouse to delay the divorce to secure a more favourable financial outcome.

Furthermore, practical concerns, such as disagreements over child custody arrangements or living arrangements, can also lead to divorce delays. A spouse may resist moving forward with the divorce until these issues are resolved to their satisfaction, leading to prolonged negotiations and court proceedings. By addressing these underlying factors and working towards finding common ground, you can minimise delays and reach a timely resolution in your divorce proceedings.

The No-Fault Divorce Process in England and Wales

Before delving into the ways a spouse can delay divorce proceedings, it’s essential to understand the basic steps involved in the divorce process in England and Wales. Since the introduction of the no-fault divorce law on the 6th of April 2022, couples can divorce in two ways: as an individual (known as a sole application) or jointly as a couple. The process is slightly different depending on whether you apply for a sole or joint application and carry their own risks when it comes to your spouse potentially delaying your divorce.

The No-Fault Divorce Process for a Sole Application

The divorce process for a sole application involves the following stages:

  1. Initial Application: One spouse (the applicant) submits a divorce application to the court.
  2. Acknowledge of Service: The other spouse (the respondent) receives the application and acknowledges receipt.
  3. Conditional Order: After a mandatory 20-week waiting period, the applicant applies for a conditional order (previously known as the decree nisi), which is a provisional court order stating that the court sees no reason why the divorce cannot proceed.
  4. Final Order: The applicant can apply for the final order (previously known as the decree absolute) six weeks and one day after the conditional order is granted. This legally ends the marriage.

For a more detailed overview of the sole no-fault divorce application process, read our article Divorcing As An Individual Applicant Using The New No-Fault Divorce – Step By Step Guide.

The No-Fault Divorce Process for a Joint Application

Couples applying for a joint no-fault divorce are known as Applicant 1 and Applicant 2 rather than Applicant and Respondent as in sole divorce applications. The main difference between a sole application and a joint application is that in a joint application, both parties are involved in each stage. In contrast, in a sole application, the applicant drives the entire process, and the respondent only needs to acknowledge the service.

The no-fault divorce process for a joint application involves the following stages:

  1. Initial Application: Both spouses submit their information to the court requesting a divorce. No acknowledgement of service is required in a joint divorce because both parties have asked for a divorce.
  2. Conditional Order: After a mandatory 20-week waiting period, both applicants apply for a conditional order. The conditional order will not be granted until both parties have applied.
  3. Final Order: The applicants can apply for the final order six weeks and one day after the conditional order is granted. Again, the court will not grant the final order until both spouses apply.

For a step-by-step guide read our article How To File A Joint Divorce Application Under New No-Fault Divorce Law.

How a Spouse Can Delay Divorce Proceedings If They Are the Applicant and You Are the Respondent

1. Being Slow to Progress the Divorce Through the Various Stages

The applicant holds significant control over the pace of the divorce process. They can delay the proceedings by being slow to:

  • Submit the initial application.
  • Apply for the conditional order.
  • Apply for the final order.

What You Can Do

If your spouse, as the applicant, is delaying the divorce, you may feel stuck in limbo. Here’s what you can do:

  • Apply Yourself: If you anticipate that your spouse will delay the process, consider being the applicant yourself. You have the most control at the beginning of the divorce, and we always recommend that you file for divorce first unless you choose to divorce jointly.
  • Conditional Order Stage: If your spouse delays applying for the conditional order, you are at their mercy. However, once you reach the final order stage, you can apply for the final order three months after the final order date if your spouse does not do so.

2. Making Mistakes on the Divorce Application

Another way your spouse can delay the divorce process is by making errors on the application, such as:

  • Spelling names incorrectly.
  • Not using all names as they appear on the marriage certificate.
  • Submitting a blurred or unclear marriage certificate photo.
  • Incorrect dates.
  • Wrong addresses.

What You Can Do

  • Check All Details: When you receive the divorce application and acknowledgement of service, ensure that all details are correct. Do not assume everything is accurate just because you received the application. The court can miss details but will catch them before granting the conditional order.
  • Apply Yourself: No one wants to spend any more time than necessary on their divorce, but accuracy and attention to detail are essential to avoid delaying your divorce. If you know that your spouse isn’t strong in these areas, consider being the applicant yourself. Don’t worry if you don’t want the hassle of doing it all yourself; you can use our no-fault divorce service, where we handle everything, including preparing all divorce documents and communicating with the court.

How a Spouse Can Delay Divorce Proceedings If They Are the Respondent and You Are the Applicant

1. Not Responding to the Acknowledgment of Service

A respondent can delay the process by not responding to the acknowledgement of service. This crucial step indicates they have received the divorce application and agree to the proceedings. To get a divorce in England and Wales, the court must be satisfied that your spouse is aware of your divorce application. If your spouse ignores the acknowledgement of service, the court has no proof that they know you want to divorce them and will not allow the divorce to continue.

What You Can Do

  • Ensure Correct Address: Make sure the court has the correct address for your spouse.
  • Communicate: Speak to your spouse and let them know you want a divorce. Sometimes, a simple conversation can resolve delays.
  • Bailiff/Process Server: If your spouse continues to ignore the acknowledgement of service, you can request the court to use a bailiff or process server to deliver the documents to your spouse. For more details on how this works, read our article My Spouse Won’t Respond to My Divorce Petition.

2. Defending the Case

Thankfully, the ability of your spouse to defend against or refuse your divorce application has been lost with the introduction of the no-fault divorce law. Under the no-fault divorce law, your spouse cannot defend against your divorce application except where the English court does not have jurisdiction. This means that any attempt to prevent a divorce from going ahead will ultimately fail. While new laws protect against unnecessary defences, a respondent can still cause delays by attempting to defend the case.

What You Can Do

  • Ensure Jurisdiction: Make sure the court has jurisdiction over your case. Typically, this is straightforward if you and your spouse live in England or Wales and do not have a divorce application in another country.
  • Wait for One Month: If your spouse defends the case, the court will allow you to proceed after one month if there is no valid defence based on jurisdiction.

How a Spouse Can Delay a Joint Divorce Application

Joint applications for divorce are becoming more popular due to their cost-effectiveness and collaborative nature. Couples can apply as joint applicants or choose the applicant/respondent model, benefiting from lower costs and avoiding the adversarial nature of having two opposing solicitors.

1. Not Responding to Any Part of the Joint Application

In a joint application, both parties need to sign off on each section of the application. This means that one party can cause delays by being uncooperative or slow to respond.

What You Can Do

  • Switch to Individual Application: The good news is that a joint application can be converted to an individual application. This means that if one party delays, the other can take control and proceed with the divorce without needing them to acknowledge the service.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

Divorce is never easy, and delays can make the process more frustrating. Understanding how your spouse can delay the proceedings and knowing the steps you can take to mitigate these delays is essential.

To minimise the risks of your spouse delaying your divorce, you should apply for your divorce yourself or apply for a couple’s amicable divorce.

Applying for divorce yourself means that you are in control of the proceedings and are not reliant on your spouse getting details right or progressing the case. Our individual no-fault divorce service is £299.

Applying for a couple’s amicable divorce reduces the risk of outside influences, such as opposing solicitors stirring up a conflict that leads to delays. Our couple’s amicable divorce service is £599.

To speed up divorce proceedings and minimise delays, we recommend maintaining open lines of communication with your spouse and working towards finding common ground on key issues, such as asset division and child arrangements. By engaging in constructive dialogue and seeking compromise, you can avoid unnecessary conflict and reach agreements more quickly.

At Easy Online Divorce, we strive to reduce the financial and emotional impact on families by providing an accessible and affordable way to end a marriage. If you need assistance or have questions about the divorce process, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Free Consultation With a Divorce Expert

Navigating the complexities of divorce requires expert guidance. We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and determine your best course of action. Our team of experienced professionals is here to provide the support and advice you need to make informed decisions. Click here to book a free consultation.

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