Divorce petitions – naming and shaming
From 5 September 2017 divorce centres across England and Wales will only be accepting new style divorce petitions. The form has been updated by the Ministry of Justice to coincide with the new online divorce system, which will slowly be introduced over the next year or so. The form is meant to be more straightforward to complete and now contains guidance notes along the side of the form to enable parties to complete the form without the use of a solicitor or any kind of legal advice beforehand.
However, concerns have been raised over section 8 of the form which relates to adultery petitions. The form appears to suggest that parties can name and shame their spouse by including details of the other party with whom they have had an affair. The guidance on the form highlights that it is “not normally necessary” to name the person with whom your spouse has had adultery but many practitioners are concerned that people will ignore this fine print and feel obliged to complete this section of the form.
There were just over 100,000 divorces granted in England and Wales in 2015 and adultery was the reason for 12,148 of them. However, it is not general practice to name the third party involved. To do so can increase the conflict from day one and add to the costs as the third party will become part of the court case and be sent copies of the paperwork and given a chance to respond. If they do not respond, proceedings may be delayed.
Anyone who is looking to start divorce proceedings on whatever ground should seek legal advice before doing so. Barker Gotelee can in most circumstances offer new clients a free consultation to discuss the options available.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.