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What is a divorce petition?

The divorce petition is the first part of the divorce process. In order to begin the divorce process, the petitioner will file the divorce petition at court.

In this article, we’ll explain what the divorce petition is and how to file it.


What does divorce petition mean?

The divorce petition is essentially a divorce application. In order to start the divorce process, one spouse must complete and file the divorce petition.

As long as everything is correct on the form, the divorce petition is then sent out to the other spouse.

The person who files the divorce petition is known as the petitioner. The other spouse is known as the respondent.


Who can file a divorce petition?

You will need to have been married for one year or more in order to file a divorce petition. It is not possible to get a divorce if you have been married for less than one year.

divorce petition


What to write on a divorce petition?

You will need to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.

There are five grounds – or reasons – for divorce:

• Unreasonable behaviour
• Adultery
• Desertion
• Separation for 2 years or more (with consent from the other party)
• Separation for 5 years or more (no consent necessary)

You will need to give one or more of these reasons.

Your solicitor should be able to advise you which grounds for divorce are most suitable for your circumstances.


Can a divorce petition be withdrawn?

Yes, a divorce petition can be withdrawn and the divorce stopped at any point before the decree absolute.


Can a divorce petition be rejected?

Yes, divorce petitions can be returned. Usually, this happens due to errors or omissions on the divorce petition.

For example, a divorce petition can be rejected if a marriage certificate has not been included. Equally, if there are any mistakes on the form itself, such as an incorrect place of marriage, this can also cause a divorce petition to be rejected.

A divorce petition being returned can slow down the divorce process. Getting a solicitor to check over your divorce petition or help you complete the form, can help to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays to the process caused by mistakes on the divorce petition.


Where to file a divorce petition?

You can apply for a divorce online or via the post.

There is a £550 fee to apply for a divorce.


What happens after the divorce petition is filed?

Your divorce petition will be checked and if it is correct, you will be sent a case number, a copy of your divorce petition stamped by the divorce centre and a notice that your divorce petition has been issued.

Your spouse will be sent the divorce petition and an acknowledgement or service form. They will then need to respond to your petition, stating whether they agree with the divorce or not. The next step, all being well, is the decree nisi.

It is vital that your divorce petition is completed correctly or your divorce may be delayed. You will need to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, otherwise you may not be able to get a divorce.

A Divorce petition can be difficult legal document to deal with.  With news that divorce rates peak after the summer and Christmas holidays, it seems that now is the time that many people, unhappy in their relationships, might be starting to think about filing for divorce.

A divorce petition is one of the first legal documents in the divorce process. Written by the petitioner and then sent on to the respondent through a Divorce Centre, a petition signals the beginning of the official divorce process – and it’s important to get it right. If you want to avoid any unnecessary delays at this stage of the divorce process, there are some things you should pay real attention to.

Last year, Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) reported that 40% of petitions are returned because of errors. Understanding the common pitfalls and filling in the petition correctly first time means that your workload isn’t added to in an already stressful and emotional time.


Top 10 reasons divorce petitions are returned

  1. Not enclosing the correct fee. It’s a simple one but make sure you remember to pay.
  2. Details in Part 2 not all filled in properly – make sure yours and your spouse’s names match what’s written on your marriage certificate and that the place and date you got married is fully filled in.
  3. Part 3 isn’t filled in properly – make sure part 3 (Jurisdiction) is filled in fully and accurately
  4. Part 4, regarding other proceedings or arrangements, is not fully filled in – make sure you fill this part in completely.
  5. Too many grounds for divorce in part 5 are ticked – or the grounds for divorce don’t match what’s said in the statement in part 6. Ensure that you only select one ground for divorce and that your statement matches this.
  6. Make sure your statement (part 6) fully explains the details and grounds upon which you’re filing for divorce. Forms are often returned because this part isn’t filled in with sufficient detail.
  7. Original marriage certificate not included with the petition – make sure that you include the original, not a photocopy, of your marriage certificate with the petition.
  8. No certificate of reconciliation received from your solicitor – make sure that this is sent with your petition.
  9. No fee remission contribution received. If you’re entitled to a reduced fee, make sure you send a fee remission contribution with your petition.
  10. No address for service of the petition to your spouse. It’s important to include your spouse’s address on the petition otherwise the petition will not be able to be sent to them.

Avoiding these common errors when filling in the forms for your divorce petition can save you a great deal of time. If a petition has to be returned to you for alterations or additions, the process can take several months, eating into valuable time when you could be moving towards finalising your divorce.

Should you be contemplating completing your divorce petition yourself, we would advise you to speak to one of our expert divorce lawyers to avoid any of the common errors and resultant delays.

For more information on this subject please visit our Legal Library.


Other articles that may be of interest to you?

How long does a divorce take?

What is the divorce process?

When is decree absolute granted in a divorce?

Decree Nisi – What does this mean in a divorce?

What are the first steps to divorce?

Is a cheap divorce really possible?


How can our expert divorce solicitors help you with divorce

Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to divorce, including:


Contact our expert divorce solicitors for advice on divorce

For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email

Our expert family law solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:

Leeds Office: St Andrew House, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 5JW

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Halifax Office: Old Lane, Halifax, HX3 5WP

Huddersfield Office: Northumberland Street Huddersfield, HD1 1RL

Coventry Office: Warwick Road, Coventry, CV1 2DY

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

Please contact us for more details.

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22nd August 2016

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