Divorce Procedure: Serving Divorce Papers

In the next stage of the standard divorce procedure, the Court usually sends the papers to the Respondent by post.

The Respondent also receives a form called an ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF SERVICE. This is for the Respondent to acknowledge that the divorce papers have been received and whether or not the divorce will be defended. It is almost unheard of these days for a divorce to be defended but there are sometimes arguments about the details of the allegations in the petition, particularly with unreasonable behaviour, so that the Respondent might insist on parts being changed or left out before returning the Acknowledgment of Service to the Court.

If there is a dispute like this, it could lengthen the time the divorce needs to go through Court and also increase the costs of the divorce. It is therefore important to resolve such matters as quickly and simply as possible via negotiations in a hope to reach a agreement.

If costs of the divorce proceedings have been claimed against the Respondent, there might also be some question raised about this before the Acknowledgment is sent back.

If the Respondent just ignores the papers, service has to be arranged in some other way, usually personal service by a County Court Bailiff or a private agent. Whoever serves the Respondent can then prove that the papers have been served and the divorce can continue.

Another way of proving service might be that someone else, often the Petitioner, has actually seen the Respondent with the papers. That person can then tell the Court that the Respondent has been served by making a statement to that effect.  This is an application for deemed service and carries a Court fee. You will need legal advice to make this application.

Sometimes, it is just not possible to find the Respondent and the Petitioner then has to apply to the Court to go ahead with the divorce without the Respondent being involved. To do this, the Petitioner would, of course, have to be able to show that they have made a very extensive search for the Respondent and, usually, this would involve employing an enquiry agent.

The next stage in the divorce procedure is the application for decree nisi.


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