It has recently been reported that the divorce of Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom is about to be dismissed as Khloe has not taken the necessary steps to progress matters.
This may make people in England & Wales wonder whether the same thing could be happening or have happened to them. The short answer is no.
The way that the divorce process works in England & Wales is that one party will issue the divorce petition which must be based on one of the five facts which are:
- Unreasonable behaviour.
- Two years separation with consent.
- Five years separation without consent.
Once issued by the family court the papers are then served upon the other party (the Respondent). Before they are served it is possible for the person who lodged the papers (the Petitioner) to withdraw their petition without the court’s permission. This means, in short, that if you issued a divorce petition but nothing has ever been sent to the other party then you could effectively stop the divorce progressing without them ever knowing you started it.
Once the papers have been served the position is that the court would need to give permission for any dismissal.
The Respondent should, once served, complete an acknowledgement of service form, however, if they do not do this this does not mean that the divorce proceedings are dismissed or come to an end and the person who initiated the Petitioner can usually progress matters provided they can show that the Respondent has received the papers.
The next stage is that the party who starts the proceedings, the Petitioner, must make an application for decree nisi (interim divorce order). If, however, they do not do this there is no automatic dismissal. There is no time limit in which a party must do this in the same way that there appears to be in the case of Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom.
Depending on the ground for divorce upon which you are relying if there is a reconciliation during this period then it may be that you cannot progress on the original petition which was issued and if you have any questions about this then you should consult a specialist family solicitor. In any event, it would be for the parties to apply for that petition to be dismissed and /or if the reconciliation was unsuccessful to deal with any amendment or new petition to be filed.
In theory therefore a divorce can therefore be in limbo for years. It is important to remember that until decree absolute is granted, however, for legal purposes the parties remain married.
The English divorce process was set up to allow for the possibility of reconciliation and to ensure that parties do notate the process of divorce lightly. This is part of the reason why when a decree nisi (interim divorce order) is pronounced (assuming the necessary steps are taken) there is a six week and one day cooling off period which is mandatory (save in exceptional circumstances) before the decree absolute (final divorce order) can be granted.