I am reminded by a recent article in ‘The Review’ (a Resolution publication) that it has now been nearly 18 months since it has been necessary to use standardised Divorce Petitions. All potential Petitioners must use these forms – there is a paper format, or it is also possible to deal with these online.

However, since the new forms have been in circulation, I have on a number of occasions advised my clients regarding the use of the paper-based Petitions and in particular to some of the guidance provided in those documents which is not strictly correct.

Irretrievable Breakdown…

Briefly, there is only one ground that can be used in a divorce petition, that of the “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage.  This is then supported by one of five facts.  If using the fact of “unreasonable behaviour”, the Petition and the Particulars must include and refer to behaviour that in effect means that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent.  However, the guidance notes provided by reference to the paper-based unreasonable behaviour Petitions are not strictly correct. The guidance suggests that continued cohabitation in behaviour petitions cannot be used if the Petitioner and the Respondent have lived together as a couple for a period, or periods, totalling more than 6 months after the date of the last incident that the Petitioner would want to rely on as evidence.  However, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 does not include this requirement.

In essence, my point is that this could create difficulties for someone who is deciding to draft a Divorce Petition based on the fact of unreasonable behaviour and what the Petitioner can or cannot refer to in their petitions.

Court Rejection of Divorce Petition…

Additionally, we are aware that some clients who are acting as the Petitioner are quite content to “accept” and refer to their own behaviour (in effect to explain their part in the breakdown of the marriage).  However, there is a risk that the Court may not accept such Divorce Petitions, as any unreasonable behaviour Divorce Petition should be based upon the Respondent’s behaviour and why it is that the Petitioner cannot tolerate such behaviour.  It is therefore unlikely that the Court will accept any Divorce Petitions that may include more neutral language especially when the Petitioner may also be referring to his or her own behaviour.

Divorce Petition Guidance…

As I have referred to in previous Articles, it is hoped that new legislation will be brought in so that the concept of “no blame” can create a more helpful way forward in order to avoid adding to acrimony and disputes between parties.  However, it is important that clients do consider the above when drafting Divorce Petitions themselves and we, at Barrett & Co, are more than happy to give guidance and advice in relation to the drafting of such Petitions.

Get in Touch

Please contact Paul Wild at Barrett and Co at our Reading office on 0118 958 9711 for more information, or email paul@barrettandco.co.uk.

Further Reading

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Family Court – The Domestic Abuse Bill

Bank of Mum and Dad in Conveyancing Transactions

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