No. 38 - Acknowledgement of Service - England & Wales
As discussed in Part 8 of Divorce 101, the divorce procedure in England & Wales has three main stages: service of the divorce petition; decree nisi; and decree absolute.
In this blog, we continue our analysis of the first stage: service of the divorce petition.
Service of petition
After the court receives the divorce petition, it will send a copy to the respondent (and any co-respondent).
Alongside the petition, the court will send the respondent a statement of arrangements (if the couple have children) - this is served only on the respondent, even if there is a co-respondent who will be served with the other documents.
The court will also send a 'notice of proceedings' and 'acknowledgement of service' form D10.
Notice of issue of petition
The court will then send the petitioner form D9H 'notice of issue of petition,' which states when the petition was sent to the respondent, acts as a receipt for payment of court fees (if applicable), and provides a divorce case reference number.
It also tells the petitioner what to do if the respondent (or any co-respondent) fails to reply to the petition.
Acknowledgement of service
(i) Respondent's options
The respondent (and any co-respondent) have eight days to return form D10. The eight days start on the day after they receive the petition. (NB. If the respondent and/or co-respondent live outside England & Wales, the court may grant more time to respond.)
On receiving the petition and other documents, the respondent may decide to:
- refuse to acknowledge service;
- acknowledge service but contest the petition &/or the court's
- acknowledge service & agree with the petition.
(ii) Failure to acknowledge service
If the respondent (or any co-respondent) fail to acknowledge service, the court should send the petitioner two copies of form D89 'request for bailiff service.'
The petitioner should then fill in the forms and return them to the court, alongside a photograph or written description of the respondent (and any co-respondent) plus a fee for each person being served - court staff can provide information on how much the fee is.
After the forms are received, the court bailiff will attempt to deliver the petition and other documents to the respondent (&/or co-respondent) personally.
If the bailiff is still unable to effect service, the court may rule that everything possible has been done, and proceed without actual service.
(iii) Service acknowledged
If the respondent returns form D10, the court will send the petitioner a copy along with Leaflet D186 'The respondent has replied to my petition - what must I do', which tells the petitioner what to do next.
The respondent will indicate on the form whether or not they intend to defend the
divorce and disagree with the financial arrangements, payment of costs, and the statement of arrangements for the children (NB. if they
disagree, they must set out alternative arrangements).