Can I contest a divorce?

In April 2022 new divorce laws in England and Wales were introduced. The idea was to bring in no-fault divorce and get rid of the need for a spouse or civil partner having to blame the other in order to get a divorce decree from the court. With these new laws, the ability to contest a divorce petition has also been limited to the following: 

  1. Jurisdiction – if one spouse or civil partner live in another country, the courts in England and Wales may not be able to handle the application.
  2. If the spouse or civil partner can prove that the marriage or civil partnership was never valid. For example, if the marriage/civil partnership was not conducted in accordance with the laws of the country in which the parties were married, this could mean the parties did not enter into a legally legitimate marriage/civil partnership.
  3. If the marriage/civil partnership has already legally ended. For example, if the parties have already gone through divorce proceedings in another country.

If any of the reasons above apply the spouse or civil partner will need to file a response to the application explaining their reason for disputing the proceedings. It is not possible for a spouse or civil partner to disagree with the application without contesting. The only ground for divorce or dissolution of the civil partnership is that one or both parties believe the marriage/civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. No other facts have a bearing on the process or outcome. As there are no longer any accusations of blame to challenge, any disagreement is irrelevant under English law.

It is highly recommended that legal advice is taken before responding to the divorce application.  If only one party has applied for divorce they will be the sole applicant. The court should send to the respondent a copy of the application usually by email, along with a follow-up letter. The email will include the completed divorce application and an Acknowledgment of Service. The respondent will need to complete and return the Acknowledgment of Service to the court.

On average, a divorce takes between six to eight months. Within the process, there are two compulsory waiting periods:

  1. A 20-week cooling-off period after the court has issued the application before the conditional order can be granted.
  2. A 6-week waiting period until the final order of divorce can be applied for.

Furthermore, a lack of cooperation by one side, complicated financial concerns and/or child arrangements, and delays at divorce centres and family courts can all contribute to the length of a divorce.

If you are considering applying for a divorce, or you have received divorce papers from the court, please do not hesitate to get in touch and book a consultation with one of our experienced family law solicitors for advice and support.

Katherine Parker is a solicitor in the Family Department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.

Suffolk Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email