I am the respondent in the divorce, what should I do?

Article reference: UK-IA-FAM12
| 4 min read

This article provides guidance for respondents in divorce proceedings. We hope it will help you under the emotionally challenging situations of the proceeding.

It sheds light on matters such as speeding up the process and negotiating the statement of arrangement of children.

If your spouse hasn’t already started divorce proceedings, the best thing to do is to try and agree as far as possible on the petition and, most importantly, the statement of arrangements for children. These things will help keep the costs down.

You can sign the statement of arrangements before the proceedings if you agree with it. It is also helpful to agree costs.

If proceedings have started, you will receive, or will have received the following documents from the court:

  • a copy of your husband’s or wife’s petition (form D8)
  • an acknowledgement of service form (form D10)
  • if you have children under 16, (or between 16 and 18 and in full-time education or training) a completed statement of arrangements for children (form D8A)

If you need copies of any of the forms, you can download them all here.

If the divorce agreement is amicable

If you agree to both the divorce and to the statement of arrangements, then you should complete form D10 and return it to the court as soon as possible.

Completion is straightforward. The only possibly complicated questions are:

  • Question 1 A – if there are proceedings, you are likely to need additional advice and should consult a solicitor.
  • Question 1 B – if you are not habitually resident or domiciled in England and Wales then the court may not be able to deal with the divorce. Again, it would be a good idea to get some additional advice.
  • Question 5 – if the petition is for adultery and you agree with the petition, you need to state this here.

If you don’t agree with the divorce petition

It might have come as a shock to you to receive a divorce petition at all.

However you feel, try to make rational decisions rather than emotional ones. Acting on emotions can be very expensive and achieve very little.

So, before deciding whether to defend proceedings or not (and maybe issue your own petition based on your husband's or wife's behaviour), you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • do you want to stay married given that he or she obviously doesn’t want to stay married to you?
  • do you feel strongly that your version of the reasons for the marital breakdown should be heard keeping in mind that the only people reading the petition are you, your wife, your respective legal representatives and the judge?

If your answer to these questions is no, you might be best advised to let the divorce go through, and negotiate the costs.

If you are determined to defend the petition and, possibly, to issue your own petition, then you will need to should arrange to see your solicitor as soon as possible.

If you do not agree with the statement of arrangements for children

The first thing to do is to return your own statement of arrangements to the court together with your acknowledgement of service form. The form, together with detailed guidance notes and an example of a completed form is available on our site.

You might also want to contact the court to see if they can set up a conciliation meeting between you and your husband or wife. This is a meeting between the two of you and one or two "conciliators" - people that aim to help you reach an agreement out of court.

It is always better for children if agreement can be reached, as it minimises emotional stress to both them and their parents to not have a court case and welfare investigation.

Should you not reach agreement, you will have to make an application under the Children’s Act.

Your husband or wife is claiming costs against you and you don’t want to pay them

As a rule of thumb, the court will award costs (i.e. order you to pay your husband’s or wife’s costs or not) on the following basis:

  • Adultery – respondent pays costs
  • Behaviour – respondent pays costs
  • Desertion – respondent pays costs
  • 2 years separation and consent – each party pays their own costs
  • 5 years separation – each party pays their own costs

The first thing to do is indicate on the acknowledgement of service form that you do not wish to pay the costs. You should give a reason, for example that your husband’s or wife’s behaviour caused the marriage to break down. It is possible that you will have to attend court to state your reasons in front of the judge.

In many cases, the petitioner will agree to not pursue costs if you say that you don’t feel you ought to pay. If you do get an order for costs made against you, this will often only be for the fees and some limited legal advice.

Remember to update your will

Your will does not automatically change on divorce or separation. If you do separate, you will probably want to change it to reflect your new circumstances. The best way of doing this is to write a new one using one of our templates. You can find more information on wills here.

Please note that the information provided on this page:

  • Does not provide a complete or authoritative statement of the law;
  • Does not constitute legal advice by Net Lawman;
  • Does not create a contractual relationship;
  • Does not form part of any other advice, whether paid or free.
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