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When you apply for a divorce, your spouse will be sent a copy of your divorce application together with an ‘acknowledgement of service’ notification. On receipt, your spouse will need to respond to the acknowledgement of service notification within 14 days. Once your partner responds to the application, your divorce proceedings can progress to the next stage, and you will be able to apply for a Conditional Order 20 weeks after your divorce application has been issued.
If your spouse is attempting to be obstructive in enabling the divorce to proceed, then there are a few things that you can do.
A Process Server can be instructed to personally deliver legal documents to an individual and will have access to databases that can assist in locating the person. The process server will need the name, address, and a photograph of your spouse to help in identifying them. There is a fee for this service which ranges between £150 and £250 plus VAT. On successful service, the Process Server will complete a Certificate of Service, which will confirm the details of service and you can lodge this at court to enable the divorce to be able to proceed.
If the Process Server is unsuccessful in handing the papers to your spouse personally, then a Certificate of Service can still be provided which will detail the attempts made and a reason for unsuccessful service. The Process Server can also try to confirm their address and post it through the letter box of your spouse. However, this will not be substantial for a successful service, but the Process Server’s certificate can only be used as evidence for the court in support of the attempts at service.
Deemed Service is an application where the respondent has not filed an acknowledgement of service responding to the divorce application. If there is evidence suggesting that your spouse received the divorce application, for instance you may have an email or text message from them confirming they have received the application, you could apply to the court for Deemed Service. If approved, the court will provide that the application is deemed to have been served. The court fee for filing for deemed service is currently £53.
If all other options have failed, and you have no idea of your spouse’s location, then in exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to apply to the court for Dispensed Service which would mean asking the court to remove the need for service altogether. It is a necessity to prove that all efforts to serve your spouse with the papers have failed. For that reason, it is vital that all attempts to serve your spouse have been recorded accurately.
If you are having difficulties getting your spouse to cooperate with a divorce and would like to discuss your individual situation with one of our specialists, please contact us for a confidential initial conversation.
Anusha Patel is a Paralegal in our Brighton office.
If you would like to discuss your individual situation with one of our specialists, please contact us for a confidential, initial conversation.