Those little boxes at the end of the divorce petition do cause alarm but they don’t need to. The world will not fall in if you tick them. No court applications will be triggered. Nothing will generally happen at all.
Why are they there?
Well, technically it is the very beginning of an application for financial provision. But don’t worry about that. A completely separate form actually activates the applications. This used to be called a Notice of intention to proceed with an application for ancillary relief. It is now better known as the Form A.
Ticking the boxes does not trigger any court process nor is it treated as a request you want the court to make an order at all.
Why do we tick them?
The advantage of having ticked the boxes is that if you remarry before finalising the financial arrangements of your divorce, you will have technically already made your application in the prayer to the petition and can proceed with it. If you have deleted or failed to tick the boxes you cannot.
If you have both remarried that can be a real problem.
How often does that happen? Well for both of you to remarry before sorting out your finances probably not very often. But one of you remarrying happens quite often and if the person who remarries was either
a) the petitioner and has not ticked these boxes or
b) the respondent
then that person will not be able to ask the court to consider the financial position or make an order.
The exception to this is possibly an application for a pension sharing order.
This problem is completely avoided by ticking the boxes on the petition.
There is no down side to ticking the boxes. If you don’t ever want a consent order you don’t need to submit one just because the boxes are ticked. It is a safety net.
Just because you wear a helmet on your bike doesn’t mean you’ve got to fall off to make it worthwhile.
To be on the safe side (and lawyers like to be on the safe side) we always tick the boxes and reassure our clients that this by itself does nothing.
The exception is the maintenance pending suit box which in some courts will cause the court office to call you up and ask if you want a hearing – although this has also only happened to me once and may not be practice up and down the country. I never tick that one box.
If you are doing your own divorce (and a lot of people on very tight budgets are) don’t forget to take advice anyway on the financial aspects of separating assets. It really is worth it and if you come to me I promise not to make a mountain out of a molehill.