Info & Advice

Should you delay divorce if your spouse asks you to?

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With many couples feeling the pinch, from increased interest rates and rental payments, not to mention food, utilities, and fuel prices, you won’t be surprised to learn it has affected the number of people applying for divorce. Research undertaken by Legal & General has found that since 2020, over 270,000 couples have delayed their divorce because of the cost of living and associated financial concerns. But should you delay your divorce if your spouse asks you to? And what are the potential consequences? Read on to find out.

How can a divorce be delayed?

There are some obvious issues that can lead to delays within the divorce process. For example, if you lost contact with your ex and no longer have their address or if they fail to respond to the acknowledgement of service form.

A spouse refusing or defending the divorce will also slow down the process. However, there are ways to work around an uncooperative ex and new divorce laws to prevent this kind of behaviour. For divorces after 6th April 2022, the ability to contest a divorce has been removed. The only instance in which a divorce can now be disputed is if it is based on the validity of the marriage or jurisdiction.

Finances are one of the leading issues to cause delays to a divorce and often extend the time span to longer than 26 weeks. The financial settlement is typically achieved via discussions between the parties and their solicitors or mediation. Going through the courts is likely to delay a final divorce order, so should be avoided where possible. Likewise, arguing about the children to the extent that it results in a court application is also likely to frustrate divorce proceedings.

What are the pitfalls of delaying a divorce?

Whilst it may be tempting to kick the divorce into the long grass with the intention of picking it up when the children are older or your finances are healthier, doing so can cause additional pressure and leave you worse off. Ask yourself how long your ex proposes to delay for, what are their reasons/rationale, and what is going to happen to the family home during this time?

Although it may be sensible to take time to reflect upon whether you wish to formally separate or divorce, it is also important to consider the practical and immediate risks of delay. Key issues worthy of consideration include:

  • Disclosure of your spouse’s financial position typically only goes back 12 months from the beginning of separation
  • An unscrupulous spouse may use this time to hide or dissipate assets in the intervening period
  • There may be tax and benefit implications of separating
  • Potential complications of new partners and children
  • Emotional toll by preventing your and/or your spouse from moving on

Many couples live apart for some time without actually doing anything about it, unfortunately most times, nothing gets easier with the passage of time. And in some cases, it could make it much more difficult to sort things out if you’ve been separated for several years. Dividing assets can be particularly challenging if divorce is delayed. For example, the shared matrimonial asset pot will be considered from the date of the separation, which arguably complicates things if you have been living apart under the same roof and sharing a bank account or other finances. Blurring the lines between matrimonial and non-matrimonial assets.

In addition, there is also a good argument for valuing matrimonial assets from the date of separation. That is particularly harsh when it comes to valuing the family home or pensions. If you had a pension worth £250,000 at the date of separation, your spouse would be entitled to 50% – so £125,000. But if the pension falls in value by the time you are negotiating a financial settlement, you could be faced with the prospect of your spouse claiming £125,000 in respect of a pension worth considerably less than the original £250,000.

If your spouse asks you to delay the divorce, you should get advice at an early stage so that you can make an informed decision about what is best to do and when you should do it. Every situation is different depending on the facts of the case, and in some circumstances, it may be that a delay is appropriate.

How can I stop my spouse dragging out the divorce?

Whilst the divorce itself takes around 26 weeks from application to final order, it is often a lot longer when you factor in the financial settlement. It is crucial that your finances are agreed upon and recorded in a Consent Order before applying for the final divorce order. There are several factors you can take to ensure your divorce is completed as swiftly as possible. These are:

  • Informing your spouse of your intention to apply for the divorce well in advance of doing so. This results in better co-operation, and you may be able to resolve aspects of your divorce amicably without involving the court
  • If you are the applicant, make sure you double-check all the information is correct with no spelling mistakes or other errors. It is this type of mistake that often leads to significant delays in the process
  • Respond to prompts or requests from the court as quickly as possible
  • Try alternative dispute resolution or mediation before you turn to the court to resolve the issues between you and an ex. When it comes to children and finances, it is not uncommon for the court process to drag out disputes for upwards of a year. ADR and mediation can significantly speed things along.

Timing is everything and that is also true when getting divorced. Take the advice of a specialist divorce lawyer, as they will be able to discuss the range of options and tailor them to your particular circumstances. Time with a solicitor early on can remove a huge mental strain, but armed with both knowledge and support, you can make the right decision as to whether a delay in divorce proceedings is in your best interests.

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