Divorce Procedure- what happens if my husband/wife ignores the Divorce Petition?

September 24, 2014 3:47 pm Published by

Occasionally, a spouse in receipt of a divorce application decides to bury their head in the sand and ignore it. That can be most frustrating for the Petitioner and only serves to increase the costs of the proceedings.

So what can you do? Very often your husband or wife will have admitted to you that they have received the documents but they don’t intend to co-operate and so they are going to do nothing about it.  That in itself will not usually be sufficient to justify the District Judge making an Order that the Petition ‘be deemed as served’ on the Respondent.  So what do you do?

If you have some independent evidence, i.e. a letter from your husband/wife confirming that he/she has received the divorce papers, then you can apply to the Court for an Order that the Petition be ‘deemed to have been served’. You would make your application and accompany it with a statement explaining why you think a Judge should make such an Order.  It is then a matter for the Judge to decide whether he is satisfied that the application has been properly served.

The Judge may not agree that this is a sufficient proof that the Petition has been served. Divorce has such serious implications that the Judge will want to be absolutely certain that the Respondent has received the Petition and so this is not an application that they will treat lightly.

An alternative and more common course of action would be to arrange for your husband/wife to be personally served. Personal service cannot be carried out by the person applying for the divorce and so you will either have to instruct the Court Bailiff or a private Process Server to personally hand the papers to your spouse.  If the Respondent, having received the documents from the Process Server, still refuses to complete the Acknowledgement of Service form and a period of at least 7 days has passed, then you can apply for Decree Nisi, relying on the Certificate of Service signed by the Process Server.

Although your husband/wife may think that they can ignore the proceedings and the divorce won’t progress, the reality is very different. The Respondent may unwittingly be increasing the costs that ultimately they may be required to pay.

Personal service is not always appropriate, for example, if your Petition is based on your separation from your husband/wife for a period of in excess of over two years, you also need the Respondent’s consent so, if they refuse to return an Acknowledgement of Service providing their consent, you will have no option to amend your Divorce Petition. Likewise with adultery, it is very difficult to prove that somebody has committed adultery and so you generally have to rely on the Respondent admitting that to you unless they have already signed a “Confession Statement”.

If you are in receipt of a divorce petition and object to the divorce then you should take legal advice because, in the majority of cases, there is little point in defending the proceedings. Simply ignoring the proceedings will not be effective and it will probably only result in you having to pay more.

For more information contact Demelza Butler at our Ipswich office on 01473 230033 or e-mail dcb@blockslegal.co.uk.

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This post was written by VickiTaylor