My Spouse Refuses To Acknowledge Divorce Petition – What Can I Do? – Updated For 2023
Have you issued a divorce petition but your spouse refuses to acknowledge it? Here is what happens after a divorce application is issued within the United Kingdom.
How will my spouse be notified after I have applied for a divorce?
Once a divorce application has been issued on the HMRC portal, the general rule is that the Court will send a notification to your spouse by post confirming that an application for divorce has been made.
A link will be provided to them by email to allow them to view the application online. Your spouse will need to set up an online account, but can then acknowledge service of the divorce application via the portal.
At the same time, the Court will send you a notification by email to confirm the deadline for your spouse to respond to the divorce application (within 14 days).
What if your spouse fails to acknowledge the divorce application by the stated deadline?
Responding by post
Firstly, you should check with your spouse if they have responded by post to the court (rather than online) and this is causing a delay. They will have to respond by post if their ‘notice of proceedings’ did not contain an access code or they are represented by a solicitor.
Post is returned or delivery fails
If the Court has sent you a notification of failure of service to the address you provided for your spouse (ie; a notice of non-delivery from Royal Mail), you can request that your spouse is served at an alternative address.
However, the Court will only attempt to send post to an alternative address on one further occasion before this option is exhausted.
Service by the applicant
It is possible to make a request to the court to serve your spouse personally with the divorce application, if say you wish your solicitor to deal with it. This would usually be where you anticipate difficulty with service.
However, if you choose this method it is important to note that service must be effected within 28 days of issue of the divorce application (by any of the permitted methods). The 28 day time limit will not apply if you have been forced to personally serve your spouse following a failed attempt at service by the court.
Service by a process server
You can instruct a professional process server to deal with service of the divorce application. This can be organised directly or through your solicitor.
A process server will usually make a number of attempts to serve your spouse and can be creative in how they do this. They can serve your spouse at home or they can do it in a public place, depending on your instructions. You will need to supply a photograph so they can be identified by the process server.
The process server will then produce a certificate of service that can be submitted to the court to confirm that they have achieved or attempted service.
If they have successfully served your spouse, you can then apply for the conditional order (once the mandatory waiting period has elapsed) without the need for your spouse to provide the online acknowledgement.
Application for deemed service
If the divorce application has been served on your spouse by post (by the Court or your solicitor and not returned) and you are satisfied that they have received the divorce application, you can ask the court to ‘deem service’.
This will enable you to apply for the conditional order, despite your spouse failing to acknowledge the divorce application. The application should be made on court form D11.
In support of an application for deemed service, you may rely on evidence such as a text messages or emails from your spouse confirming that they have received the divorce application.
It is not necessary to also arrange for the divorce application to be personally served, although this may be useful in some cases to satisfy the court that your spouse has received the divorce application.
You should provide as much evidence as possible to support your application to ensure that any obstacles to the next stage of the procedure are removed.
Application to dispense with service
If it is not possible to serve the divorce application on your spouse, for example if you have simply not been able to locate them, you may apply to the court for service to be dispensed with. Again, the application should be made on court form D11.
Within the application, you will need to set out all of the enquiries that you have made to identify the whereabouts of your spouse. This might include speaking to their family and friends, making enquiries with their employers and so on.
The court will only make an order dispensing with service if it is satisfied that you have made full enquiries in trying to locate the respondent. Care should therefore be taken to exhaust all options before making an application.
If you only know your spouse’s email address but you do not know their home address, you will have to apply for an order for alternative service by email via the Court application form D11.
This application can be done retrospectively and you may wish to attach a “read receipt” when you send the email. It is advisable to include a request for service to be deemed within this application.
Uploading D11 Applications
Please note that these application forms are now submitted via the HMRC portal, rather than emailing or posting them to the court. It is welcome news that waiting times for these orders are much improved.
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* Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*