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What is an Acknowledgement of Service?

Our People - Loretta Orsi-Barzanti
5 October, 2022

What is an Acknowledgement of Service in divorce proceedings?

An Acknowledgement of Service is a court document that the Respondent (the person receiving the divorce application) will get once the divorce application has been issued. They will receive the document with a copy of the divorce application. This is the document that confirms they have received the divorce application and whether they intend to defend the divorce.

If your ex-partner hasn’t returned the Acknowledgement of Service, you cannot progress your divorce. You must prove to the court that your ex has received the divorce application to move your divorce forward. You can do this by instructing a process server, applying for a court bailiff to serve the papers, applying for substituted service or by applying for deemed service.

It can be a very anxious time responding to divorce proceedings. This article looks at the most popular questions surrounding filing your Acknowledgement of Service in the UK and what you can do if your spouse doesn’t file it.

How long do you have to file the Acknowledgement of Service?

You have 14 days to file your acknowledgement of service. You can still return it after this time, but after 14 days have passed, the applicant in the divorce may have already sought to progress the divorce by instructing a process server, applying for a court bailiff to serve the papers, applying for substituted service or by applying for deemed service.

How do I return an Acknowledgement of Service?

You can return the Acknowledgement of Service in the UK either online or by post.

The way you return the Acknowledgement of Service depends on how you were served with the divorce papers. If you received the divorce application by post, then you have to return the Acknowledgement of Service by post. If you received the divorce application by email, then you will need to follow the instructions in the email from the court, set up an account with the court and respond using the online form. This maybe straightforward, but you may wish to seek advice from a solicitor if there is something that you are unsure about.

Can I still get a divorce without the Acknowledgement of Service being filed?

Yes, you can, but you will need to look at other ways to prove to the court that your ex has received the divorce application. There are different ways to progress your divorce without a returned Acknowledgement of Service, although it will depend entirely on the circumstances of your case and what is most appropriate. It may be that you must instruct a private process server to attend at their address. Alternatively, you can ask the court bailiffs to go to their property and give them the divorce papers. If you have some evidence that they have received it – for example a text message or email, then you can ask the court to make an order of deemed service allowing the divorce to continue. You can also ask the court to serve the divorce documents in an alternative way – such as at their work address or another property that you know they might go to – this is called substituted service.

What happens after the Acknowledgement of Service has been filed?

Once the Acknowledgement of Service has been filed at the court by the respondent, the applicant in the divorce application can make the application for Decree Nisi or the Conditional Order.

If you need any help or advice on filing an Acknowledgement of Service or on matter relating to the divorce process, please feel free to contact our specialist Family Divorce team on 020 8492 2290.

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