What to do if your ex ignores the divorce papers
When a marriage hits the buffers, ideally both husband and wife will agree to get divorced.
However, many divorces are contested by one party which makes the whole process more difficult and leads to protracted negotiations.
What can make things even more tricky is if one spouse refuses to engage at all and ignores the divorce papers. So what can be done in this scenario?
What are my options if my ex does not acknowledge the divorce papers?
One of the first major steps in getting a divorce is for one divorcing party to complete a matrimonial order (formerly called a divorce petition) which essentially comprises the divorce application to the court.
Once the application has been submitted and approved, the court will send a copy to the other spouse along with an ‘acknowledgment of service’ form.
They must respond to this form within 8 days – either agreeing with the divorce or contesting it (or objecting to any costs).
Once this has been done, the divorce can proceed to the next stage which is the application for decree nisi.
But sometimes the other party fails to respond to the acknowledgment of service form.
This may be due to an oversight or change of address – so as a first step it is worth contacting them informally to ask if they have received it OK.
However, occasionally there will be a stark refusal to engage in the divorce process, possibly as part of a strategy to contest the divorce.
In this latter scenario, there are certain steps that may need to be taken, which we will consider below.
1) Personal service
If your spouse has not responded to the acknowledgment of service form within 14 days – and you reasonably believe they are still living at the relevant address – it is possible to arrange for a court bailiff or process server to deliver the divorce papers to them personally.
This is known as ‘personal service’ and will normally incur a fee, along with some administration (although this can be arranged via a solicitor).
Once this has been completed, the bailiff or server will file a certificate of service with the court to confirm that they have achieved service successfully – it is then possible to apply for the decree nisi without the need for the acknowledgment of service form to be returned.
2) Deemed service
If there is evidence that your spouse received the divorce papers in the post, an application can be made to the court to rule that the papers were correctly served; this is known as ‘deemed service’.
Evidence may consist of an email or text message – pretty much anything which confirms that your spouse received the papers.
Once service is deemed to have taken place, the divorce can proceed to the stage of decree nisi without any need for the acknowledgment of service form to be returned.
3) Dispense with service
If none of the above methods work, and your spouse cannot be reached (eg they have left the country) it may be possible to ask the court to dispense with the requirement for service altogether.
However, this is generally only granted by the court in exceptional circumstances, and it is necessary to prove that reasonable efforts have been made to ascertain the contact details of your spouse (eg talking to friends and family, contacting them via email and other means etc).
Are you unable to locate your spouse to serve the divorce paper? Or maybe you believe they will contest to the divorce?
Check out our Missing Spouse Divorce Service, costing just £349. Saving you thousands compared with your local high street solicitor. This service is for people who are unable to locate their spouse or where they believe their spouse won’t consent to the divorce proceedings.