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Respondent vs Applicant in Divorce

Posted: 10th July 2023

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Addressing the stages of divorce can be hard to get your head around, especially if you’re going through an emotionally difficult time. Despite this, knowing where you stand as a Respondent or Applicant in divorce is crucial, enabling you to be aware of your options regarding this legal procedure.

Fortunately, our specialised legal team is here to help guide you through applicants’ and respondents’ rights and the importance of resolving financial matters following divorce.

Who is the Applicant in a divorce?

An Applicant, previously referred to as the Petitioner, is the individual in the marriage who applies for a divorce. This means that this person completes the first document, which then gets sent to the court, initiating divorce proceedings and making the other party the Respondent.

Why is there no longer a Petitioner in divorce?

Prior to the introduction of no-fault divorce laws, the Applicant was known as a Petitioner because they were petitioning for a divorce – if they did not meet the grounds for a divorce or if their partner defended against the petition, then the divorce would be halted by the court.

Since 6 April 2022, the only necessary ground for a divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. It is also possible to be a joint Applicant with your ex-partner – more on that below.

Who is the Respondent in a divorce?

The Respondent in divorce refers to the party who doesn’t apply for proceedings. The Respondent must complete the ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ document and has up to two weeks to return this to court following receipt. This document states whether the Respondent agrees to proceed with the divorce or challenges it.

A Respondent may choose to challenge the divorce, although this is rare and can only be on technical legal grounds, such as if the marriage isn’t valid in the first place. Respondents cannot dispute a divorce because they don’t want it to happen.

How does a joint application work?

With the introduction of no-fault divorce law came the ability to apply jointly for divorce, meaning that partners can apply for a divorce together and will be referred to as Applicant 1 and Applicant 2. In this process, there are no respondents.

The idea of introducing this was to avoid the ‘blame game’ which previous divorce laws had created. Couples no longer have to prove one of five reasons for the breakdown of marriage. The current legislation is designed to minimise animosity and ensure a smoother and more amicable divorce process.

A joint application can be reverted to a sole application should there be issues to the second Applicant engaging during the divorce proceedings. This would however cause a delay to the process, so choosing a joint application for divorce should be considered carefully.

Does it matter who initiates a divorce?

While the Applicant usually has a degree of more control over the divorce proceedings, they do not have any more financial rights than the Respondent. Being an Applicant or Respondent in the divorce does not impact the outcome of the financial agreement. It is however always recommended that you ensure you resolve the financial agreement between the parties before the Final Order of Divorce is made, due to inheritance reasons.

Petitioner vs Respondent in divorce: who pays?

Each party will be responsible for covering their own personal legal costs in a no-fault divorce, but the Applicant (or Applicant 1 in a joint application) will typically cover the court fees (currently £593). Due to the nature of the no-fault divorce the Applicant can try to come to an agreement with the Respondent that each party contributes half of the fee.

How can Newtons Solicitors help?

Divorce and separation can be tricky to deal with at any stage of your life, making it integral that you get the expert support you need to help you handle this process. Our legal professionals can guide you through financial settlements in divorce and help you protect the assets you deserve, just as they have for many other clients throughout the years.

We hope you now feel more confident in the difference between the petitioner vs respondent in divorce proceedings. If you wish to seek the legal guidance of one of our experienced and empathetic family law solicitors, please contact us today.