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What is an Acknowledgement of Service?

02 October 2019

An Acknowledgement of Service is a legal document that is used during divorce proceedings. The purpose of this document is for a person to tell the Court that they've received the divorce paperwork and they acknowledge that their spouse is seeking a divorce from them. They must complete the document, including stating whether or not they agree to the divorce, and return this to the Court.

In this article, we explain the divorce process and how the Acknowledgement of Service fits into this.

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The Divorce Process

To get a divorce in England or Wales, you must have been married for at least a year. The divorce process is generally administrative. This means that usually neither person will need to see a judge to get a divorce as it is almost always agreed by a judge on the paperwork. The process is usually relatively simple as long as your spouse agrees to the divorce and does not defend the proceedings.

The document that starts the divorce is called a Divorce Petition. The law requires one spouse to petition against the other, even if both people agree that there should be a divorce.

To start a divorce, the Divorce Petition is filled in and sent to the Court. This document provides information about the couple and tells the Court why the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The person starting the divorce is called the Petitioner and the other spouse is called the Respondent.

The Divorce Petition must briefly set out evidence why the marriage has broken down, by supplying certain details in one of the following five categories:

  1. that your spouse has committed adultery
  2. that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them (referred to as unreasonable behaviour)
  3. that your spouse has deserted you for two years
  4. that you have lived apart for two years and your spouse consents to the divorce
  5. that you have lived apart for five years

For more information, see Grounds for Divorce – Choosing the Right One.

The Court then sends the petition out to the Respondent together with the Acknowledgement of Service.

The Respondent must complete the Acknowledgement of Service, stating whether or not they intend to defend the divorce. The form then has to be returned to the Court within seven days of the date it was served (this deadline is extended if the Divorce Petition is being served outside of England and Wales).

If the Respondent doesn't return the Acknowledgment of Service, a it may be possible to have the Divorce Petition served to them by hand. For more information, see What Happens if My Spouse Doesn't Respond to Divorce Papers?

How to Complete the Acknowledgment of Service

The Acknowledgment of Service must:

  • Be signed by the Respondent or their legal representative
  • Include the Respondent's address for service
  • Indicate whether or not the Respondent intends to defend the case

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