Consider this scenario...You have separated from your spouse and wish to divorce. You have been advised that you could start a divorce based on either their adultery (if applicable) or unreasonable behaviour. Suddenly you receive a Divorce Petition from the Court filed by your spouse blaming you for the end of the marriage. You are angry and feel that it is unjust for you to be blamed for the breakdown of the marriage when it was clearly their fault. But what can you do?
The form you receive with the Divorce Petition asks you whether you intend to defend the divorce. If you decide to do so then you will need to say “yes” in answer to this question and return it to Court within 8 days of receiving the Petition. You will then have a further 21 days to file an formal “Answer” to the Petition and, if you wish to go ahead with your own Petition, then you will need to file this at the same time as the Answer.
It is possible, at this stage for your spouse to agree that your Petition proceeds and theirs is “stayed” or “dismissed”. Alternatively you could agree that the divorce proceeds on the basis of both Petitions. If there is no agreement then your spouse will file a “Reply” to your Petition and this is likely then to be listed for a Court hearing.
There is, however, another option. You may feel aggrieved that the divorce is proceeding on the basis of your behaviour or adultery but, if you still want to go ahead with a divorce, you could allow your spouse's petition to proceed.
Firstly, the divorce proceedings are private, which means that only yourself, your spouse and the Court are provided with information in relation to your divorce. This means that no-one else is able to obtain information in relation to the divorce and the reasons for it.
If it is a behaviour petition (and you are particularly unhappy about the behaviour cited by your spouse) then you can complete the Acknowledgement of Service Form stating that you do not intend to defend the divorce but that you neither accept nor admit the allegations contained within the same. This makes it clear that you are allowing the divorce to proceed but are not accepting that you have acted in the way alleged.
It is important also to note that the Court will not penalise you in relation to your entitlement to the financial side of the marriage if you are the respondent in the divorce itself. The only financial implication may be that you pay some or all of your spouse's legal fees and so it is worth trying to reach an agreement regarding this before you sign the form.