The curse of Strictly strikes again – should you name the lover in the divorce petition?
Emotions are bound to run high if you discover your spouse has been cheating on you. If this happens to you and you decide the relationship is beyond repair, your knee-jerk reaction may be to insist that your husband or wife’s lover is named and shamed in the divorce petition. But is this the best course of action?
Family Procedure Rules specifically advise that the "other person should not be named in the application" unless the other party to the marriage or civil partnership is likely to object to the divorce.
It's Strictly Come Dancing season so what better time of year to talk about illicit liaisons and marital breakdown? Every year, it seems, one or more of the contestants falls for their professional dance partner and after endless tabloid speculation their existing relationship ends up in tatters. This year is no exception, with comedian Seann Walsh being dumped by long-term girlfriend Rebecca Humphries after he was caught on video kissing dance partner Katya Jones (who is herself married).
Previous victims of 'the curse of Strictly' include Rugby player Ben Cohen and his wife of 23 years Abby Blayney after he fell for dance partner Kristina Rihanoff. Abby's angry reaction was not untypical of people in her situation: "He's done the dirty on me and I want people to know,' she said at the time. "My husband, who I was with for 23 years, unconditionally loved and was completely loyal to, has left me for a f*****g Russian dancer." Quite.
I have no idea if Abby named Kristina in the divorce petition but if her outburst is anything to go by, I should imagine she was tempted to do so. This is not unusual, and something many victims of adultery want to do. But this is something I always advise against.
Why? Let's start by looking at what you need to prove if you want to get divorced in England and Wales. There is only one ground for divorce and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is proved by relying on one of the five facts of divorce: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, separation of two years with both parties consenting to the divorce, separation of five years, and desertion.
You can rely on adultery if your husband or wife has had sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex. However, you cannot give adultery as a reason for divorce if you lived together as a couple for six months after you found out about it. Also, you cannot petition on the basis of your own adultery.
If you do rely on adultery, there is no need to name the other party as a co-respondent in the divorce. In fact, the Family Procedure Rules specifically advise that the "other person should not be named in the application" unless the other party to the marriage or civil partnership is likely to object to the divorce.
The reason for this is recognised in the practice direction. It is, says the direction, "likely to cause further tension and conflict between the parties and will also increase costs and time as a further party will be involved in the proceedings".
These are exactly the reasons why I recommend not naming the other person. For a start, if you name a co-respondent, you will need to serve the petition on them. If they refuse to acknowledge service, you will need to go to the effort and added costs of having a process server serve the petition on them. More cost, more delay and ultimately more acrimony.
More than that though is the fact that naming them is tantamount to a declaration of war. You are setting yourself for an antagonistic divorce battle where every issue is likely to be fought over. That means greater stress for you and, inevitably, higher legal fees.
My advice to clients is to focus on what matters now and in the future rather than on the past. The goal should be to get the best financial settlement you can and the most appropriate arrangements for the children, if you have any.
Anger and the desire to score points is likely to cloud your judgement and distract you from what really matters for your future financial wellbeing and peace of mind. Bear in mind, too, that the courts aren't interested in the reason for the marital breakdown when determining the financial settlement. The fact of your spouse's adultery is irrelevant in this context.
If you would like to discuss getting divorced, in the strictest confidence, please contact me at [email protected]