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Lara Shihadeh
Family Paralegal

Disclaimer: This Article Does Not Constitute Legal Advice

While this article aims to provide a comprehensive guidance, it’s important to note that this article does not constitute legal advice. Every situation is unique, and detailed, so personalized advice must be obtained from qualified legal professionals to address your specific circumstances. The article is intended for informational purposes only and should not replace competent legal consultation.

What if my partner declines to acknowledge the divorce application I've submitted?

Divorce proceedings can be complex and emotionally challenging, especially when the other party fails to engage in the legal process by not returning the Acknowledgment of Service form. This crucial document signifies that the respondent has received the divorce petition. It’s important to understand the available options when faced with this situation and the potential implications it might have on the divorce process.

Acknowledgment of Service: Its Significance and Consequences

The Acknowledgment of Service form is fundamental in a divorce case as it confirms receipt of the divorce petition by the respondent. Ideally, it should be completed, signed, and returned to the court within a specific timeframe within 14 days. However, if the respondent fails to respond within this period, it can cause delays in the legal proceedings.

Options Available When the Respondent Doesn't Return the Form

1. Process Server

One option is to engage a process server. This professional 3rd party serves the divorce papers directly to the respondent, ensuring the documents are properly delivered. This method can help prove that the respondent has been made aware of the divorce petition, even if they refuse to engage. The respondent will not be able to claim that they have not received the paperwork since there will be an affidavit or witness statement from the process server to confirm that this has happened.

2. Personal service of papers by a court bailiff

Another option is requesting personal service of papers by a court bailiff. This involves asking the court to arrange for the delivery of legal documents directly to an individual. This method ensures that divorce application is physically handed over to the intended recipient by an authorized court bailiff. After successfully serving the documents, the bailiff usually provides a proof of service, such as a statement or affidavit, confirming the date, time, and manner in which the documents were delivered to the recipient. This method less expensive than engaging a process server however it can take much longer to happen. Applicants eligible for method are people which need help with fees and are facing financial difficulties.

3. Alternative service

If traditional service on the respondent is not feasible, for example because the respondent does not live in the UK anymore, the applicant can request approval to use a different approach to serve the application. In divorce or dissolution proceedings, this alternative method might include serving the divorce application by text, email or social media or mailing them to the respondent’s bank, a family member, or employer, or through an advertisement, as long as it’s likely to bring the application to the respondent’s attention.

Alternative service is relevant to a divorce or dissolution application when all the applicant’s efforts to serve have failed and there is insufficient evidence to apply for deemed service.

4. Deemed Service

Under UK law, if the court is satisfied that reasonable steps have been taken to serve the divorce petition but the respondent still hasn’t responded, it might consider the petition as ‘deemed served.’ This means the court may proceed with the case despite the lack of acknowledgment from the respondent. The applicant will need to prove that the respondent has been made aware of the divorce application.

5. Dispensed Service

If all efforts to serve the respondent fail, the court might grant a dispensation of service. This allows the divorce proceedings to continue without the acknowledgment from the respondent. However, this step usually requires strong evidence to prove that attempts were made to serve the documents.

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