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Time to reflect - does a divorce petition have an expiry date?

View profile for Louise Rhys-Thomas
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Where one party to a marriage decides to send their divorce petition to the Court, formally starting those proceedings, this can be an emotionally difficult journey and one which may take some time.

Why then would the Petitioner (as they then become known) choose not to progress those divorce proceedings? And does the divorce petition have an ‘expiry date’?

Delay could be for a variety of reasons, including the Petitioner wanting further time to reflect on their decision, the sudden ill health of one of the parties or of a child, or even attempting a reconciliation.

There is no specific time period for a divorce petition to be served upon the Respondent recorded as a rule within the Family Proceedings Rules 2010 and so the petition does not technically ‘expire’ if it is not served on the Respondent. The onus in on the Petitioner to progress the divorce and the Court will not ‘chase’ them to do so.

What impact then would a delay have upon the decision of the Court should the Petitioner then seek to progress the divorce and apply for Decree Nisi?

The Court would have regard for procedural rules and case law in this area and may consider that if a petition is ‘shelved’ for a number of years whilst the marriage continues, it should be struck out as an abuse of process or the Petitioner may have failed to disclose reasonable grounds for the application if the Court considers that the marriage had not broken down irretrievably given the time that has passed since the original petition. An original petition based on adultery or unreasonable behaviour may also have fallen foul of rules against cohabitation in the intervening period. 

If you require assistance in relation to issuing or progressing divorce proceedings, or any of the issues surrounding divorce or separation, please feel free to contact a member of our Family Law Department on 01242 574244 and we will be happy to meet you and discuss your situation.

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