What happens if my spouse does not acknowledge divorce papers?

Getting a divorce can be an extremely difficult time and can be made harder if the other party will not cooperate and fails to respond to the divorce application. In this circumstance, there are a few available options which allow you to finalise your divorce.

When the applicant files for divorce, the other party receives through the post an Acknowledgement of Service form along with a copy of the divorce application and the log in details for the Court portal. The other party must return the Acknowledgement of Service form (via the portal) within 14 days of receipt. By doing so, they are confirming that they have received the divorce application.

If the other party does not respond, it becomes the responsibility of the applicant to prove to the Court that they have tried everything they can to contact the other party to encourage them to return the Acknowledgement of Service form and, while they have had sufficient chance to respond, they have chosen not to.

What is an Acknowledgement of Service in Divorce?

An Acknowledgement of Service form is a Court document which the other person (person receiving the divorce application) will receive once the application has been issued by the Court. They will receive the Acknowledgement alongside a copy of the divorce application and details to be able to access the Court portal.

What are the alternative ways of serving divorce papers?

When there is nil response from the other party, the first step may be to contact him/her yourself to try and figure out why it is that they have not responded however, if you are unable to get in contact with the other party, the next step would be to use a Court Bailiff to re-serve the documentation on him/her. This process involves a Court Bailiff handing the papers to the other party in person. This does incur an additional fee; however, it provides sufficient evidence to the Court that the other party has received divorce papers and the divorce process can then proceed to the next stage.

A different method of alternative service would be for a Process Server to deliver the documentation to the other party directly. A certificate/statement is provided stating that the other party has received the papers. If it has been more than 28 days since the divorce application has been issued, the applicant will need to make an application to the Court to extend the time for service.

What is alternative service of divorce papers?

When applying for a divorce utilising the online Court portal, the standard method of serving divorce papers is by Court Service. If the other person does not reply, it may be necessary to change the service method, for example, to use a Process Server or Court Bailiff. 

What is a Process Server of divorce papers?

A Process Server is someone who hand-deliver/serves Court documentation on a person.  A Process Server may also help to locate people who try to avoid service and they are often trained to deal with difficult situations.

After alternative service, what if the other party still doesn’t respond to the divorce application?

If you have evidence that the other party has received the divorce documentation (by way of a Court Bailiff of Process Server), however they are still not responding, the applicant can apply to the Court for Deemed Service. The Court will decide whether your divorce application can progress without the completed Acknowledgement from the other party.

What is Deemed Service

A Deemed Service application is where the other party has not responded to the divorce application through filing an Acknowledgement of Service form. The Applicant can apply for deemed service for a Court Order to state that the application is ‘deemed to have been served’.

What is a dispensed service process in divorce?

As a last resort, the applicant can make an application to the Court for dispensed service, meaning that the divorce can proceed without the other party being served with the divorce documentation.

Before the Court will consider this option, the applicant must prove that they have tried everything possible to find the other party to serve them with the documentation. This includes the above, as well as contacting the other party’s family members, friend and their last known place of work, etc.

If at least two years have passed since the other party was last contacted, the Final Order (formally known as Decree Absolute) can be pronounced by the Court.


Divorce can be a very unsettling time for all parties involved and can be made even more stressful when one party is uncooperative. Although, for a divorce to be a fair process, it is really important that both parties are fully engaged in the process.  There are occasions when the other party is either unresponsive (choosing to ignore the serving of the divorce papers) or uncontactable (unable to locate them despite best efforts). It is on these occasions when alternative methods can be adopted to progress the divorce application despite the unavailability of the other party.

Here at Thornton Jones Solicitors our skilled and experienced Family Law team can guide you through the process of separation and divorce. If you would like advice regarding separation, divorce,  finances, or children’s matters, please contact one of our offices to arrange an appointment.

☎️ Call our Wakefield office on 01924 290 029
☎️ Call our Garforth office on 0113 246 4423
☎️ Call our Sherburn in Elmet office on 01977 350 500
☎️ Call our Mapplewell office on 01226 339 009
☎️ Call our Ossett office on 01924 586 466

About the Author

Heather joined Thornton Jones Solicitors as an Office Junior in November 2020 and quickly established herself as a key member of our Conveyancing team. After completing her Masters in Law along with Legal Practice Course, Heather moved into the Family Department as a Paralegal.

Having graduated from the University of Hull in 2020 with an International Law LLB Degree, Heather is working hard to gain valuable hands-on experience of working in a busy law firm with ambition to study further and qualify as a solicitor.

Outside of work, Heather loves going on holiday and travelling to new places. Outside of travel, Heather spend time with friends and family and with her family dog Maisie.

The content of this blog post is for information only and does not constitute formal legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no liability for any such reliance upon this content. Where the post includes links to external websites, Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no responsibility for the content of such sites. Any link to a third party website should not be construed as endorsement by Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited of any content, products or services which are outside our direct control

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