This is the second part in a four part review of the Divorce Process entitled The Acknowledgement of Service.
- Part I: For details of how to Petition for a Divorce, see here
- Part III: Obtaining the Decree Nisi of Divorce
- Part IV: Obtaining the Decree Absolute of Divorce
Once a divorce petition has been filed at the court, it will normally be posted to the other spouse to the marriage. The spouse being divorced is referred to as the ‘Respondent’.
Along with the divorce petition, the court will also send the Respondent some other documents too called an Acknowledgement of Service Pack. One of those forms needs to be filled in by the Respondent, signed by them or their solicitor and returned to the court. This is now usually all done on the digital online portal.
The Respondent must acknowledge to the court within 14 days of receiving the acknowledgement that they have received the divorce petition and they must also notify the court whether they consent to the divorce proceeding undefended or whether they do not.
At this stage in the proceedings the Respondent needs to consider their position very carefully because this may be the only opportunity the Respondent has to alter the direction of the divorce.
Considerations for the Respondent after receiving the Divorce Petition and Acknowledgement of Service Pack:
The Respondent should at this stage consider some of the following issues before returning the Acknowledgement of Service Form to the court:
1. Are you willing to agree to the divorce progressing on an undefended basis? In other words, do you contest the divorce as set out by the Petitioner or are you willing to agree to allow the Petition to proceed without you defending the suit?
In the huge majority of cases it is now no longer possible to defend a divorce. However; we deal with special situations, and there are still occasions when a divorce can be defended.
There are very strict timescales for doing this and in our experience most people get it wrong and miss the deadlines.
2. Who pays the costs of the divorce?
Under the new system of divorce, since April 2022, the person who issues the divorce petition pays the costs. However; both spouses can issue this together and split the costs 50/50 if they choose.
Remember though – we are only talking about the costs of the divorce. This is separate from any costs that may arise dealing with the finances of the divorce, the division of assets or disputes about the children.
3. What happens about dividing assets and child custody
Any arrangements or disputes related to the assets of the marriage and dividing these on divorce are separate issues to the divorce petition. These will almost always need to be discussed with a specialist solicitor.
If there are children of the marriage and if there are disputes between the parents about crucial issues of the child’s life or care, then this is a separate matter altogether from the divorce. Disputes or arrangements regarding children are covered by The Children Act 1989.
The respondent has 14 days from the date of receipt of the divorce Petition and the Acknowledgement of Service Pack to file the acknowledgement of service form.
If the Respondent tries to avoid the divorce petition or if you think that they would try to avoid it, you should speak with us before starting the divorce petition. There are some special and rather complicated rules setting out how these situations can be dealt with.
One of the complications that can occur for a Petitioner seeking a divorce is locating the whereabouts of the Respondent. We often are consulted by Petitioners who don’t have their spouses current contact details. This is crucial because a divorce petition must be served on your spouse. If it cannot be served, then the court needs to be informed of all the steps that have been taken to try and serve the Respondent and only then ‘might’ the court allow the matter to proceed.
If you are a petitioner and you don’t know where your spouse lives now, you will probably need a specialist family law solicitor to assist you, as this is a complication.
Frequently Asked Questions
I don’t agree with the ‘divorce petition’, What can I do?
Under the new rules since April 2022 it is generally not possible to defend a divorce in England & Wales. There are some very specific situations where a defence is possible, but you will need to speak with us if you think these apply.
For example, there may have been an earlier divorce in another country, or you might dispute the validity of the marriage altogether. We have had many cases where the marriage was never consummated.
Do we have to live in separate addresses to divorce?
Generally speaking, no. You can live at the same address and still divorce in England & Wales
What happens to my rights to see and spend time with my children during and after divorce?
If there are disputes between parents about the arrangements after divorce for children, then that is a separate matter from the divorce itself. See our page on Children
We didn’t marry in the England, can we still get a divorce if we live here?
If you live in England or Wales, you can almost always petition for a divorce here, irrespective of where you married.
How & when do we divide our finances?
It is commenced by filing at court a form called Form A. Once filed this starts off a new court process dealing with the finances and is effectively separate from the divorce matter in most respects. See our separate articles about Ancillary Relief for more details of this procedure.
If the Petitioner & Respondent have already agreed how they intend to split the matrimonial assets after the divorce, then they will require a Consent Order. Divorcing couples should be aware that NO agreement between them splitting their assets after a divorce is valid except a court order or a Consent Order.
Please note that you should never obtain a final order of divorce until you are certain that the issues of finances have been resolved. Otherwise there is a risk that you could lose out on some or all of your entitlement to a share of the assets.
Should you have any queries about your own personal circumstances contact us on 020 8401 7352.
Divorce is a potentially complex legal process and you should always ensure that you receive independent legal advice specific to your particular circumstances from a qualified adviser.