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What will I have to do to get a divorce?

Have you been looking into the divorce process in the UK? If you have, you’ll certainly have encountered the terms ‘Petitioner’ and ‘Respondent’. These terms are used to describe the roles each spouse will play throughout their divorce as it progresses through the courts – but how are they defined and what will each spouse actually need to do in order to get a divorce? Well, we’re here to tell you.

Which spouse is the Petitioner, and which is the Respondent?

In order to formally apply for a divorce, one spouse needs to complete a form (known as a Divorce Petition or form D8) and send it to their nearest divorce centre. The spouse that completes and submits this form becomes the Petitioner. The other spouse will receive a copy of the petition along with a form (known as a D10) that they’ll be asked to complete and return to the divorce centre that is dealing with the application. This spouse is the Respondent.

What else do the Petitioner and Respondent do?

Once they’ve completed and returned form D10 to the relevant divorce centre, the Respondent’s role in the divorce process itself is all but done. They may wish to become involved in the divorce at a later stage and should be involved with related matters such as the division of assets (more on this later) but the majority of the work is done by the Petitioner.

As part of the divorce process, the Petitioner will not only need to complete a Divorce Petition, but also at least three other forms. The Divorce Petition starts the divorce process, the Respondent moves it forward by completing and returning form D10 with the Petitioner responsible for fulfilling the remaining processes including the task of applying for both the Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.

Do the Petitioner or Respondent pay the court fees?

Technically, as the court fee is paid at the point of submission (or shortly afterwards if the payment is to be made by card), it is the Petitioner that is responsible for paying it.

That said, when a divorce is amicable, there are numerous informal solutions. For example, Respondents that have agreed to pay the entire fee have transferred the money to the Petitioner’s account or paid it to them in cash. Other couples have agreed to split the bill and the Respondent has provided the Petitioner with the required funds. Some Respondents have even allowed the Petitioner to pay these fees with their credit cards!

If the divorce isn’t quite so friendly, the Petitioner can formally request that the Respondent be ordered to pay these costs. They’ll still have to pay the fee up-front, though. A judge will then decide if the Respondent should reimburse the Petitioner, either in fill or in part, at a later date.

We’d recommend that you check if you have to pay the court fee before filing, though. A lot of people don’t need to pay anything at all and even those that aren’t quite as lucky will need to pay significantly less than the full £550 fee. If you don’t claim, the courts will charge you the full fee so make sure you look into this and send a completed EX160 along with your Divorce Petition if you’re eligible.

Does the Respondent have to do anything else?

Well, they can file for the Decree Absolute if the Petitioner doesn’t do so within three months of them being able to do so (i.e. six weeks and one day after the date their Decree Nisi is pronounced) by completing and submitting form D36 to the relevant Divorce Centre. Importantly, though, they’re going to have to be involved in negotiations regarding the division of assets.

So, should I be the Petitioner or Respondent

In all honesty, there really is no distinct advantage to either. If you’re lucky enough to be pursuing a divorce that’s low-conflict, the only strenuous part of the application is completing a Divorce Petition that relies on a fault-based ground which – in uncontested divorces – is rare. Of course, if your divorce is amicable and you need to cite adultery or unreasonable behaviour, you can simply complete the petition together and share the burden.

Sadly, if the divorce is contested, it’s going to be a testing period irrespective of whether you’re the Petitioner or the Respondent.

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