Petitioner vs Respondent

In Divorce Breakup advice

Deciding to divorce can be difficult. Legal jargon only complicates it further. When it comes to divorce papers and understanding what to do next, it’s important not to get overwhelmed. It can be unclear what you need to do next, and who the paperwork refers to, so we have broken it down to make it simple.

Who is the petitioner?

The petitioner is the person who has started divorce proceedings. If you started the paperwork, you are likely to be the petitioner. In the eyes of the law, it is your responsibility to show that your marriage has broken down. You'll choose the grounds for divorce (e.g. adultery, desertion etc) and in some cases provide proof.

You are the ‘petitioner’ because you file the divorce petition which starts the process.

Who is the respondent?

The respondent is the spouse who receives a request for the divorce. As the title suggests, you need to respond to your spouse’s request. This means filling out the required paperwork and sending it to the courts.

You can either accept or defend the divorce petition. This depends on whether you agree with the reasons for the divorce. Use an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form to go ahead, or an ‘answer to a divorce petition’ form if you disagree. If you agree, you have 8 days to respond, and if you disagree you have 21 days. Talk to your solicitor about what the best option is for you as the respondent. Be aware of the different charges depending on your course of action.

You are the ‘respondent’ because you are responding to the divorce petition.

Are you the petitioner or respondent?

A petitioner is a person who has initially asked for the divorce. The respondent is the spouse who has received the request. Though you may have amicably agreed to divorce, one of you needs to start the process. That person will be the petitioner from that point on. There is no advantage or disadvantage to being either the petitioner or respondent. They are simply terms to make it easier to refer to each party during the divorce process.


Andi Forsythe

Andi is our Content Marketing Manager at The Law Superstore. She's dedicated to providing helpful and thorough articles so anyone can access the legal support they need.

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