Family law

Does it matter who files the divorce petition?

It seldom matters legally or financially which person starts the divorce process. The decision to petition – or cross-petition – is often based more on emotion than reason, as our family law experts explain in this short guide.

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Does it really matter who starts divorce proceedings?

It generally does not matter which person starts the divorce process. The decision as to who should be the one to petition for divorce is often more an emotional one, and the reasons for the marriage breakdown usually have no impact on the financial outcome unless they are extreme. There is no 'punitive' element to a divorce settlement.

Being the one who begins the divorce process - known as the Petitioner - does give you some control over the pace at which the divorce moves forward. This can be important if you are either keen to see the divorce finalised quickly, or, conversely, if you wish to take more time before the marriage ends.

It's also true that where you are divorcing based on 'fault', such as when one party is accused of unreasonable behaviour, the respondent can be made to feel that they are being held fully responsible for the breakdown of the marriage.

When this happens, they may choose to Cross-Petition: which means putting forward their side of the story.

The issue, therefore, is more often which spouse feels most strongly that they do - or don't - want to be the one to start divorce proceedings. If one spouse feels particularly hurt, it may help them to be the one to begin the divorce: if only because being the one to act first indicates their belief that it is the other party's fault. At the same time, some people simply don't want to be the one to bring the marriage to an end, and often for the same reason.

Does it help to talk before filing for divorce?

Very few divorces are contested these days, even though reaching an agreement with regard to child arrangements, property and money can lead to considerable disagreements. So, if at all possible, it is best to try and talk things through with your spouse; and either forewarn them of your plans or ask if they would prefer to file the actual divorce petition.

Raising the issue of divorce with your spouse will, of course, be difficult if this is not something you have spoken about before. In such a situation, you need to consider that although you may have already begun detaching yourself from the marriage, your spouse may need longer to adjust and to begin to grieve for the loss of the marriage.

This will be hard for both you. That's why it is usually sensible to allow your spouse time rather than to push forward too quickly. If you force matters very early on, this can often result in it taking longer to resolve things in the long run.

Do I need legal help to divorce in the UK?

Strictly speaking, there is no requirement in law for you to use solicitors in order to gain a divorce. If you are one of those rare couples who have an equal wish to divorce amicably, are able to split all of your assets equitably, and intend to share childcare equally, you may well proceed without legal help although if you reach an agreement about finances, you should protect your position with a consent order.

However, very few divorces are without some complexities meaning that it is often best to seek legal advice to ensure that your interests are protected as far as possible.

So whether you intend to start divorce proceedings, or have just received a Petition in the post, call us now on 0330 041 5869 or contact us and we will call you.

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