Unfortunately, with the decline in the availability of Legal Aid and the subsequent increase in people trying a “Do It Yourself” divorce, a higher return rate is understandable.
Key points to remember
- In the top boxes on page 2, it is important to put a correspondence address for both parties. If the address for one party is not known, the Court will reject the Petition because it cannot be served. If the address is not known then there are other steps that could potentially be taken, and you should seek legal advice as to what steps would be appropriate in your situation.
- At the bottom of page 2 you must enter the details of the marriage. It is very important to enter those details exactly as they appear on the marriage certificate, down to whether the date is written in numbers or in letters. Any discrepancy between the marriage certificate and the Petition will result in the Petition being rejected.
- On page 3, it is important to put the last address at which you lived together in the top box, even if neither of you live there now. It is also important that you fill in the rest of page 3 correctly regarding the jurisdiction of the Court. This may be confusing as you are being asked to pick the particular Regulations under which your case falls. If you are trying to complete the divorce Petition yourself look carefully at the accompanying notes as to an explanation as to how to properly complete this page.
- At the top of page 4 you must enter whether there have been any other proceedings in the Courts in England and Wales or elsewhere relating to the marriage or the family. If the divorce Petition is based on five years’ separation, you also have to enter details as to whether an agreement has been made for the support of the parties and/or the children of the marriage. The bottom of page 4 provides for you to select the fact on which you are petitioning for divorce. Select one from the first three boxes (whether you are applying for a divorce, a dissolution of a civil partnership, or a judicial separation) and then one from the next five facts as to why the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
- At the top of page 5 enter the Statement of Case. This should provide the Court with further detail as to why the fact that you have entered on page 4 applies in your case. For example, if you have stated that the marriage has broken down because of unreasonable behaviour, this is where you would enter details of what that behaviour has been.
- Details of the children need to be entered on the bottom of page 5.
- In the middle of page 6 you must enter whether or not you are being represented by a lawyer in the proceedings. If you are being represented by a lawyer then the lawyer may well complete the Petition for you. If you are not being represented by a lawyer, tick the relevant box and leave the entirety of box 1 blank. Box 2 at the bottom of page 6 is the address at which you can be served with Court papers. This should be your current address.
- At the top of page 7 you must enter the Respondent’s address for service. This must be the same address as entered on page 2 and must be a current address at which the Respondent can be reached. If you are Petitioning on the basis of adultery and you have named a Co-Respondent to the petition, enter their details at the top of page 7. If you are considering naming a Co-Respondent it is important for you to read the guidance provided by the Court.
- At the top of page 8 is the ‘Prayer’ – this explains to the Court in brief what you are asking it to do. Tick what you want (that the marriage or the civil partnership be dissolved or that the parties be judicially separated), together with details of whether you wish to claim costs from the Respondent or the Co-Respondent and details of whether you wish to potentially pursue a financial order in the divorce.
- Sign and date the bottom of page 8.
If you are completing this form by yourself, the Court’s guidance notes are particularly important. They include a checklist at the end reminding you what needs to be sent to the Court (failure to get this right is another reason why Petitions are rejected). Petitions must be accompanied by your original marriage certificate as well as the relevant Court fee for issuing the petition. The current Court fee is £550.00.
You may be entitled to a fee remission (in which case you would have to complete a fee remission form) and this is explained further in the guidance notes that accompany the Petition on the government’s HMCTS website.
The Petition is an important document and contains a lot of information which has implications further on in the case. Having a legal expert will ensure that the Petition is correctly filled out.
If you are unsure as to how to complete the Petition please do seek independent legal advice. The Family Law Company offers a free half hour consultation – you can ask any questions to make sure that you feel happy moving forwards, whether you choose to do this with our support or as a self-represented litigant.