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What do you do if you hear nothing from your spouse in response to your divorce Petition?

When you begin Divorce Proceedings, one of the early steps will be to send the Divorce Petition to Court Divorce Centre and then have the issued copy sent to your ex-partner. This is known as ‘serving’ the Divorce Petition.

Once your Divorce Petition has been sent to the Divorce Centre and issued, it is usually the court’s job to send the Divorce Petition and accompanying documents to your spouse via Royal Mail to the postal address you gave on the Petition. Your spouse should sign and return the Acknowledgement of Service to confirm whether they are in agreement with the Petition or intend to defend it. The Acknowledgement of Service is a crucial document as it allows you to prove that the Divorce Petition has been received by the other person, and if undefended, allows you to progress an application for Decree Nisi.

However, what do you do if you hear nothing from your spouse in response to the divorce Petition? Your spouse is given eight days from the day the Petition is received to return the Acknowledgment of Service form to the court. Time for returning the form may be extended if, for example, your spouse lives abroad or for some other legitimate reason. If you still receive no response from them, then it could be because the Petition wasn’t received for some reason, or that it’s being ignored. If the court wasn’t able to deliver the Petition, then they should let you know by sending you a Notice of Non-Service of Petition.

If it appears that the Petition was delivered but is being ignored, then you have to pick another method of service so that you can prove that the Petition has been received. You have four choices:

  1. Personal service:

(i) You can instruct the court bailiff to serve the divorce paperwork for you. If the service is successful, then the bailiff will file a Certificate of Service at court. If he can’t serve the papers, then he will file a Certificate of Non-Service. In this case you will have to choose another method of proving service.

  • You could instruct a private process server, hired directly by you. Process servers are often more costly than court bailiffs, but may use greater efforts to track down the individual who needs serving. If the process server is able to track down the Respondent and serve them with the paperwork, they will file a Certificate of Service confirming that personal service has taken place. The Certificate of Service can then be used as evidence of service before the courts.
  1. Deemed service;

(i)If your spouse has responded in some way, such as saying in an email, letter or post on Facebook that he’s received the Petition, then you can use this information to prove that he’s received the Petition. You can file an Application Notice (Form D11) and a court fee and ask the court issue an order for deemed service.

  • Application for service by an alternative method or at an alternative place;

(i) It may be that you think that there is more chance of your spouse receiving the Petition if it’s served at another address (e.g. their parents’ house), or even by email or left at their place of work or local pub. You can apply for an order from the court to allow you to serve them in an alternative way using this Application Form D11.

  • Application to dispense with service;
    • This is final resort and you can apply to the courts to use this method if all attempts at service have failed. You will need to prove that you have made all reasonable efforts to serve them.

Once you are able to provide the court with evidence that the Respondent has been served, you will be able to continue with the process of your divorce.

If you are struggling with serving your ex-partner, a solicitor can help you save time and energy to move things along. Get in touch with Pepperells by contacting us today.

If you wish to discuss the above further, please contact Kayleigh Smalley at or call 01482 326511.

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