Step 3 – Respondent returns divorce documents

Step 3 – Respondent returns divorce documents

The court sends some paperwork to your spouse (the respondent) to inform them that you have applied for a divorce and to request their approval to the divorce proceeding uncontested. The respondent is expected to respond to the court within 8 days.

Around a week after the court receives your correctly completed Divorce Petition, the court will send a package of documents to the respondent.
Instructions for the Respondent

The Respondent must acknowledge receipt of the petition by completing and sending (to the court and the petitioner) the acknowledgement of service form they have been sent.

The main decisions at this point are:

  1. Do you accept that the divorce should go ahead? Or do you wish to defend (prevent) the divorce?

    It is unusual to defend the divorce as once one party has reached the point of petitioning there is little the other party can do to prevent the inevitable breakdown of the marriage.
  2. Do you accept the grounds (reasons given) for the divorce?

    It is not uncommon for the respondent to object to the grounds given on the petition. However, unless you have a very strong objection then in practical terms it is usual to not take the grounds to personally and to leave them as stated and get on with the process.
    1. Are you prepared to accept and pay for the costs of the divorce?

      The general principles as to the costs of an undefended divorce are as follows:

      It is common for the petitioner to include a claim for costs in the divorce petition. Sometimes the claim is expressed to be effective only if the petition is defended.

      The respondent must use the Acknowledgement of Service to indicate whether a claim is accepted or disputed or limited to a specific amount. If the respondent rejects the claim for costs the petitioner must state in the affidavit in support of petition whether or not the claim is pursued.

      If the petitioner progresses the claim the judge will usually invite the respondent to attend the pronouncement of decree nisi to argue the point. If this is a significant issue the hearing may be adjourned to be dealt with when there is more time available.

      The costs in issue in the divorce proceedings are just the costs in relation to the divorce itself and not any correspondence concerning financial issues or children issues.

Once you have decided on each of the above three items, then you complete and return (to the court) the acknowledgement of service.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Should I defend the petition?

The main reason to defend the petition is if you do not wish the divorce to go ahead, or if you strongly object to the reasons (grounds) given by your partner.

I am not happy to accept the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ grounds, What do I do?

If you accept that divorce is inevitable, there is little point in fighting the divorce petition, even if you disagree with some of the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ cited. Courts will these days accept grounds which are less confrontational (such as workaholic, or lack of attention) so there really is no need to list exaggerated/extreme behaviour. You could negotiate with your ex for her to amend the petition to list behaviour examples that you find “acceptable”.

My new partner has been listed as co-respondent, what does this mean?

In adultery cases the petitioner can either say the adultery occurred with an un-named person or they can name the person as a co-respondent. (This is less common these days as it causes friction and serves little practical purpose). It doesn’t have a great impact on the process or the finances. The court is really only concerned with the parties to the marriage.

Further Support

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