UK Divorce: How to Get One if Your Spouse Refuses

Divorcing your husband or wife can be emotionally draining, time-consuming and expensive, but the process can become even harder if your spouse refuses or ‘defends’ the divorce.

You may be wondering how to get a divorce in the UK if your spouse refuses to co-operate, or if it is even possible. The good news is that it is completely achievable, and we’re going to explain how.

If you’re having trouble getting your spouse to agree to a divorce, our expert team of family law solicitors could help you.

how to get divorce if spouse refuses UK

When Can You Get a Divorce?

In England and Wales, you can get a divorce if all of the below are true:

  • You and your spouse have been married for over a year,
  • Your marriage is legally recognised in the UK,
  • The UK is your permanent home, or at least the permanent home of your spouse, and
  • Your relationship has broken down beyond repair

You will have to prove that your marriage cannot be saved, and will have to give one of the following reasons to back up your claim:

  • Your spouse had sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex (adultery). You can’t use this as your reason if you have then lived together as a couple for over six months after you found out
  • They behaved unreasonably, including actions such as physical violence, verbal abuse, and drug taking
  • They deserted you for two years or more
  • You and your spouse have been separated for two or more years, and they agree to the divorce
  • You have been separated for five or more years, even if they don’t agree to the divorce

Your reason will have to be cited in your divorce application. After you submit your application, it will be checked, and if all is correct and legal you’ll be sent:

  • A notice that your application has been sent
  • A copy of your application stamped by the UK divorce centre
  • A specific case number

What you can do if your spouse refuses to get a divorce will largely depend on your circumstances as a couple and individually. For example, as stated above, if you have been separated and living apart for five years or more, you do not need your spouse to agree to a divorce. However, they will have to be involved in the divorce process because you will have to prove to the court that you have served them divorce papers.

If you will be citing one of the other four reasons for your divorce, it will be a little trickier to obtain if your spouse is refusing.

Are you seeking legal representation for your divorce? Our experienced solicitors can help you.

What Can You Do if Your Spouse Refuses to Get a Divorce?

Knowing how to get a divorce in the UK if your spouse refuses is very important, especially if your relationship is particularly strained. So, what can you do if they refuse to co-operate? Well…

Your spouse will also be sent a copy of the divorce application, and an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form, which they should respond to. This form will ask them if they agree with the divorce, intend to try and prevent it from happening, and object to paying any costs you’ve tried to claim. They have eight days to respond.

Your spouse could refuse by responding and stating they intend to try and prevent the divorce, or ‘defend’ it. If they do so, they will then be sent an ‘answer to divorce’ form to state why they disagree with the divorce. They have 28 days to do so.

If they don’t submit this form, you can go right ahead and apply for a decree nisi, which is a document that says the court sees no reason for you not to divorce. If they do submit it in time, you may have to go to court to discuss the case.

Your spouse should, but may not respond to the acknowledgement of service form. If they don’t, this could be their way of refusing to get a divorce. Not only can this be very frustrating, but it can also end up costing you a lot of time and money. Although this may be infuriating, there are steps you can take to ensure that your divorce actually happens:

1. Apply for Deemed Service

Applying for deemed service is one way to get a divorce in the UK if your spouse refuses to return the acknowledgement of service form. You have to submit an application to the court to ask for the divorce to proceed without the completed form.

Deemed service will only be granted if you can prove that your spouse has received the form, but just not submitted it. If they have texted you, for example, you could use this as evidence. However, the decision to grant deemed service is made at the judge’s discretion, so if you apply it does not necessarily mean you’ll be granted it.

2. Instruct a Process Server

If you apply for deemed service and are refused, or if you have not had any correspondence from your spouse that confirms they have received the divorce papers, you can instruct a process server. This is the second solution to help you get a UK divorce if your spouse refuses.

A process server is someone who physically serves divorce papers at your spouse’s home, work, or other known address. Once they have delivered them, they provide you with a certificate service which you must present to the court. The court will then decide whether you can apply for a decree nisi.

3. Apply for Alternative Service

If neither deemed service or a process server are successful, you are expected to continue to try all avenues to get in contact with your spouse and get a response from them. If they’re still refusing to co-operate, you can apply for alternative service.

Alternative service is where you ask the court for permission to contact your spouse by serving notice to their relative or employer.

4. Apply for Dispensed Service

Dispensed service can be applied for as the last resort to get a divorce in the UK if your spouse refuses to co-operate. You can only apply for this if you have tried all of the above three options.

Dispensed service means to proceed with a divorce without your spouse’s acknowledgment of service. It will only be allowed if the court is completely satisfied that you’ve genuinely done everything you can to find your ex and serve them divorce papers.

Has your spouse refused your divorce or simply ignored your attempts to contact them? We can help you finalise your divorce in the least stressful way possible.

Can You Get a Divorce Without Your Spouse’s Signature?

Yes, it is possible to get a divorce without getting your spouse’s signature, but only in certain circumstances. For example, if your spouse lacks the mental capacity to act on their own, a family member or close friend can be appointed to act on their behalf. This person is called a ‘litigation friend’, and their signature will be required on all documents that your spouse’s would have been.

The only other situations in which your spouse’s signature is not required during your divorce is if one of the four processes above are carried out. Under deemed service, for example, a text or email acknowledging receipt of the form is considered to be the equivalent of a signature. If your spouse is co-operating in the divorce process, their signature will be required in order for the divorce to be finalised.

Can You Refuse a Divorce?

Yes, you can. However as we mentioned above, if you do choose to refuse a divorce you should be prepared for the matter to go to court. This can be costly and time-consuming, and sour relations between you and your spouse even further.

Although it’s painful to know that your husband or wife no longer has faith in your marriage, it can become even more so by going through a gruelling court process. It could hurt you, and your family, so sometimes it’s better to just let go.

You could also refuse a divorce if you believe you will be genuinely and significantly worse off financially if the divorce goes through. A court may uphold this claim, but are more likely to suggest a financial agreement to be made during the divorce process to ensure that you receive some sort of maintenance payment or a share in the value of your spouse’s assets. We don’t recommend staying in a marriage purely for financial reasons.

If you need help and support through a particularly difficult divorce, our family team can help.

Support and Guidance through Difficult Divorces

Here at AWH we understand that a divorce is, more often than not, an extremely difficult time in a person’s life. It can be emotionally draining, can impact upon your work, and may strain relationships with children or other family members.

Your spouse refusing to get on board and work amicably with you can make the process so much harder, but don’t fret. Our family law team have years of experience supporting people just like you through the one of the most difficult times in your life, and are committed to getting our clients the result they need to move forward. With our expertise and knowledge of how to get a divorce in the UK if your spouse refuses, you can rest assured you’ll be in the best hands.

Whatever the problem, our solicitors on hand to support you through your divorce and help you live the life you deserve.

Starting the process couldn’t be more simple!

  • Contact us Contact us Get in touch however suits you best and arrange a consulation with one of our solicitors
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