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What to do if your divorce petition is ignored

The course of true love is bumpy, and separation can be even rockier. When you make the decision to divorce, you’re always hoping for a straightforward and amicable split with both parties trying their best to make it work. Sometimes that just isn’t the case and your partner may not want to play ball. The most common way your spouse could try and slow down or even stop the process of divorce is by ignoring your petition when you file it, and not sending back their Acknowledgement of Service. Though it’s tempting to assume the worst if you don’t get an immediate response from them once you’ve filed, it’s worth finding out if they received the papers at all. Perhaps you have an old address for them, and their mail hasn’t been re-directed? Whatever the reason, your first steps should be to find out and then prove they have been served with the petition.

Serving the papers

You can ask the court bailiff to personally serve them with the papers for a fee, or you can hire a private process server. This can be costly but will prove to the court that you are willing to take serious steps to locate your spouse and will probably culminate in them finding and serving them with the appropriate papers. It is true that divorcing after five years of separation can be done without consent, you must then satisfy the court that you have tried to contact your spouse to serve them the papers using all reasonable means. You must prove to the court that you do not know where your spouse is, and that you have contacted their friends and family to attempt to get in contact with them. You must also have taken steps to track them down using the electoral roll, their last known employer and even their bank.

Divorce without consent

It’s difficult to persuade a court to allow you to separate from your partner without consent unless you really have exhausted all possible avenues to try to get in touch with them, so it is in your interests to try your best to locate your spouse to reduce the cost of your divorce and the time is takes for you to get your decree absolute. You should send your completed forms to the last known address of your partner, and then your regional divorce centre will let you know if the divorce petition is returned unopened. If it is, you can then apply for the petition to be sent through another method such as via email, or by applying to have the centre search other government departments for their new address or other addresses. If all of your searches are fruitless, you will be forced to fill in the statement to dispense with service of divorce petition to ask the court to proceed with your divorce proceedings even though the respondent could not be served with the papers. This will incur a £50 court fee.

In a worst-case scenario, your spouse may be dead, and you would then be forced to apply for a D8D form to end the marriage through other means. This will incur a £365 court fee and we would recommend it goes along with formal legal advice on gathering appropriate evidence, but once the form is filed you will be granted a form allowing you to officially remarry in the future.

If you’re still confused about how the court deals with an unopened divorce petition, you can call us today for free, impartial advice.


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