In a divorce, the Respondent is asked to sign and return the Acknowledgment of Service – a document with a series of questions which the court sends to the Respondent with the divorce petition.
The Respondent is required to answer the questions and sign and return the document to the court.
In my extensive experience, respondents frequently fail to return the document to the court.
What happens next depends on what ground for divorce – which I have outlined below – you have used:
Adultery: the Respondent has to sign the acknowledgement unless you have a signed confession statement before the petition was issued.
If the Respondent refuses to sign, and you do not have a clear photograph of the other party having penetrative sex with another person of the opposite sex, you won’t get your divorce. You will have to amend your petition to another ground, which involves an application to court.
Behaviour: the Respondent doesn’t have to sign the acknowledgement – his or her solicitor can sign it. If no one signs it and returns it, you have to obtain a set of papers from the court for personal service, pay for an enquiry agent to give the papers to the other party, file a statement proving that that took place from the enquiry agent, wait 14 days, then apply for a decree nisi – which you will get.
2 years’ separation with consent: the Respondent must sign the acknowledgement or you will not obtain a divorce on this ground.
5 years’ separation: provided you can prove that the other party received the divorce papers, by arranging for the papers to be given to him or her by an enquiry agent, you will be able to apply for your decree nisi.
Making the right choice of ground is crucial. Behaviour as a ground is the best option if you have not been separated for long and you know that your ex is going to be difficult.
Keebles partner, Vanessa Fox, has been head of the firm’s family law department since 1991.
The latest edition of the Legal 500 Guide praises Vanessa for her ‘broad knowledge of finance and childcare, and for her passion for collaboration; she is efficient, caring and robust’.
Collaboratively trained and a qualified mediator, Vanessa is a former chair of South Yorkshire Resolution and a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel and the Children Panel.
She can be contacted on 0114 290 6232 or at www.keebles.com.