What can I do if my spouse is delaying the divorce?

It has been reported in the popular press that Brad Pitt, concerned that his wife Angelina Jolie is delaying their divorce, has issued her with an ‘ultimatum’ to sign the divorce papers, or else he will ask the court to impose a fine on her. Such a procedure is not available here, but what can you do if your spouse is delaying the divorce?

Well, it depends upon whether you are the party taking the divorce proceedings, the basis of the divorce, and the stage that it has reached.

If you issued the divorce petition then you may be able to proceed with the divorce even if your spouse has failed to acknowledge receipt of the divorce papers. If you can prove that they have received the papers (for example by having a process server personally serve the papers upon them), then you can ask the court to proceed with the divorce. However, you will still have to prove the basis of the divorce. If the divorce is on the basis of your spouse’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’, or five years separation, then this may not be a problem. However, if the divorce is on the basis of your spouse’s adultery then you will need to prove the adultery without an admission from them, and if the divorce is on the basis of two years separation, then you will not be able to proceed without your spouse’s consent to the divorce.

If you did not issue the divorce then, if the decree nisi has not been pronounced, there is nothing that you can do to force the divorce through, other than to issue a cross-petition of your own. However, if the decree nisi has been pronounced then you can yourself apply for the decree absolute, finalising the divorce, three months after your spouse could have applied, i.e six weeks plus three months after the date that the decree nisi was pronounced.

There is another issue that can be a factor in how long a divorce takes: the financial settlement. Often, a divorce should not be finalised until the settlement has been reached. In that case, you should obviously seek to reach a settlement as soon as possible, whether by agreement or court order.

The above is a brief summary of the law. For further details, please contact us. To book a free initial consultation, click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Image of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt by Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.