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What to do if your spouse ignores your divorce papers

The vast majority of divorces filed in England and Wales are uncontested. This, it is widely believed, means that everyone involved in the divorce agrees and wants their marriage to legally end. Whilst this is partly true, a divorce can actually be uncontested by the Respondent whilst simultaneously also effectively being blocked by them.

As part of the divorce process, the Respondent informs the court that they consent to the divorce by completing and returning a D10 form (also known as an Acknowledgement of Service) to them. This form is sent to the Respondent along with a copy of the documentation that was filed by their spouse following a divorce having started and contains a section where the Respondent is afforded the opportunity to either consent to or contest it. Should they actively choose to contest the divorce, they will need to pay a fee to the court. Furthermore, doing so almost always results in a court hearing which brings inconvenience and stress. It is therefore rare that Respondent’s actively contest divorces. Instead, they simply do not return this form – but it’s important to note that this doesn’t always mean that the divorce will be unable to proceed.

Can you get a divorce if the Respondent doesn’t return the D10 form?

In the event that the Respondent attempts to block a divorce by refusing to complete and return the D10 form, it is still possible to obtain a divorce unless the application relied on either adultery or two-year separation with consent.

In order to obtain a divorce as a result of the Respondent having committed adultery, it is necessary for the Respondent to confirm that they did engage in infidelity. In the case of two-year separation, the Respondent’s consent is an unavoidable requirement. This means that, in order for a divorce relying on either ground to progress, the Respondent must complete and return the aforementioned form D10. If they do not, then it is virtually impossible for the Petitioner to prove that the Respondent was unfaithful. Plus, of course, consent will clearly not have been provided if this form is not completed and returned to the court.

If the application cited unreasonable behaviour or five-year separation, it can still proceed though it may be necessary to pay a further fee for a process server to hand-deliver the documents to the Respondent. Doing so will mean that the Petitioner is able to prove that the Respondent has received the documents and is refusing to return them, and the courts will allow the divorce to proceed as a result.

When filing on the grounds of five-year separation, consent is not required but it is preferable that the Respondent be made aware of the application. It’s possible to get divorced without the Respondent knowing, but only if the Petitioner has been unable to locate them after an extensive search or if there’s a compelling reason not to inform them of proceedings.

With unreasonable behaviour, the Respondent refusing to complete and return documents would, in itself, be seen as sufficient proof of the fact that the party is capable of behaving in a manner that they are likely to know is unreasonable.

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