Divorce Without Consent: What are the Pitfalls and How Can they be Resolved?

Young couple undergoing a trial separation symbolised by being on separate sides of a vertical divide in the middle of the image

Divorces can be a very stressful and complicated experience, but if both parties consent it can run a lot smoother than most would think. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with a divorce without consent where several issues can arise.

A divorce without consent can happen for several reasons. Sometimes it can be because one partner doesn’t agree with the reasons for or the terms of the divorce, in other cases, it can be because one party wants to delay proceedings out of bitterness or spite. Either way, it can be hugely frustrating for someone who’s looking to finalise their divorce and move on with the rest of their life.

In this post, we’ll take a look at divorce without consent, establish a few of the pitfalls, and provide advice on how they can be resolved as quickly as possible.

It Can Be a Longer and More Expensive Process

If both parties consent to the terms of the divorce, it not only makes quicker and more simple when it comes to dividing assets, property, and making arrangements for children, but it also means that you can avoid the additional expenses that come with taking a divorce to court.

To get a divorce without the consent, there are a few additional legal hoops to jump through if your partner refuses to sign divorce papers, which we’ll go into greater detail below. This naturally will require additional time working with your family lawyer, as well as court fees, so a divorce without consent can prove to be a lot more expensive.

The grounds for divorce in the UK state that you can file for divorce without consent after five years of separation. So if you’re not in any particular rush to get divorced, but have been separated for a while, then it might be worth waiting it out until you can do so without the need for mutual consent.

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A Hostile Divorce is a Horrible Experience for Children

The divorce of a child’s parents can be very difficult for them to comprehend or deal with emotionally, so the additional trauma of hostility is something that should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, a contested divorce is unlikely to be a calm and relaxed affair, as it will make decisions over money and property especially difficult.

One of the most crucial aspects of a divorce is ensuring that any children involved are the top priority. Following a divorce, they need to have a suitable living arrangement with the parent who will provide the be possible care, which can be difficult to agree in a calm manner during a hostile break up. If a decision can’t be made then the court will step in to make a ruling based on logic, rather than be at mercy to the ego, pride, or emotions of the parents.

So, What Can I Do if My Partner Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers?

A common issue with divorce proceedings is when one spouse decides to bury their head in the sand and ignore any paperwork they receive, which can include the Acknowledgment of Service form. You will need them to complete this to prove that they received the divorce papers and state that they want to contest the proceedings. If your spouse refuses to sign or completely ignores this form it may seem like you have no way of moving forward. Fortunately, that isn’t the case!

If you are aware or suspect that your spouse will likely be uncooperative, it would be in your best interests to opt for ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as your reason for the divorce. Rather than choosing to base the divorce on adultery or two years separation, as you won’t need their active cooperation to progress your divorce because they will be acting unreasonably. All you have to do satisfy the court that the papers have been received.

So, let’s assume that you have based your divorce proceedings on unreasonable behaviour. If they have failed to complete and return the Acknowledgment of Service, your options are as follows:

1. Bailiff Service: You instruct the Court Bailiff to re-serve your Divorce Petition on your spouse, which will incur an additional fee of £110. Once the Bailiff completed the delivery of the form, you no longer need your former spouse to complete and return their Acknowledgment.

2. Service through a Process Server: Although a bailiff service can be very effective, process servers are known to go to greater lengths to complete their service and therefore the possibility of success is much higher. With that said, a more efficient service naturally comes with a higher price tag. The downside is that instructing a process server is likely to be more costly, which in this case comes at the cost of £150 or more.

3. Deemed Service: You can choose this option if you have sufficient evidence such as a text, letter, or email that proves that your spouse has received the documents. In this instance, there’s no need for a process server or bailiff as you merely need to make a separate application to present your evidence.

4. Dispensed Service: A dispensed service is essentially the last resort option and is designed cover situations where completing the divorce has proved to be impossible due to the lack of consent at one end.

Following the utilisation of one of the above options, you should then be able to move onto the next stage of your divorce (the Decree Nisi stage) without having to include your former spouse. You also do not need them to complete any other documents to secure the Decree Absolute, which completes your divorce.

Is your former spouse refusing to sign divorce papers? At KMJ Solicitors, we specialise in all aspects of family law, including divorces without consent. Get in touch today to schedule your FREE no obligation consultation.

Clayton spent five years working in family law with a firm in Australia before moving to the UK in 1999. He deals with all aspects of family law, specialising in all family matters, offshore trusts, company structures, international law, prenuptial agreements, high net worth cases and cohabitation law.