What are Divorce Papers?

18 September 2018

There's a lot of paperwork involved in getting a divorce, and these documents are commonly referred to as "divorce papers". The documents that you receive during divorce and the way in which you receive your divorce papers can vary.

We explain the divorce papers you can expect to come across during the divorce process and what to do with these. This information applies in England and Wales.

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Divorce Papers Explained

The divorce papers we explain in this article are the, Letter of Notification, Divorce Petition, Notice of Proceedings and Acknowledgement of Service. Also see Decree Absolute Ends Marriage but Not Financial Commitments.

Letter of Notification

You may receive a Letter of Notification from a Solicitor informing you that your spouse is looking to start divorce proceedings, but this is not always the case. If you do receive a Letter of Notification, it would normally provide you with some information as to why your spouse is seeking a divorce, including the reason (fact) that they have cited for the breakdown of the marriage.

There are 5 legally recognised facts that can be used when seeking a divorce and further information can be found in our article Grounds for Divorce. The Letter of Notification should state which 'fact' is being used and is also likely to indicate whether your spouse is intending to claim the costs of the divorce against you, which they may be entitled to do.

The Letter of Notification may also offer you the opportunity to see a copy of the Divorce Petition before it is sent to the Court. The Divorce Petition is the form used to make the application to Court to start the divorce proceedings.

After the Letter of Notification has been sent to you, it may well be that the divorce proceedings are then fully commenced and the divorce application is made at Court.

It is not a legal requirement for the Letter of Notification to be issued before the divorce proceedings begin. What can happen instead is that you receive a letter from the Court stating the divorce proceedings have already been started by your spouse.

In this circumstance you will receive 3 documents from the Court:

  • The Issued Divorce Petition
  • The Notice of Proceedings
  • The Acknowledgement of Service.

1. The Divorce Petition

The Divorce Petition will be completed and submitted by the person who is beginning the divorce proceedings (either you or your spouse). This person is called the Petitioner. The Divorce Petition will then be sent on to the other person, who is known as the Respondent.

The Divorce Petition is one of the most significant documents used during a divorce. The Divorce Petition is sent to the Court at the beginning of the divorce proceedings, and will provide comprehensive information about you and your spouse, your marriage and the reason for your divorce.

The Divorce Petition will also give an indication as to whether the Petitioner intends to also settle the matrimonial finances at the same time as the divorce.

It is a common misconception that once a divorce has gone through the financial matters are also completed. This is actually a separate issue that needs to be dealt with by the divorcing couple and/or the Court by putting in place a Financial Order. Without a Financial Order from the Court, the two of you will still have financial ties and one of you could make a claim against the other's assets in the future.

2. The Notice of Proceedings

This document will be sent along with the Divorce Petition and provides further information on the next steps which you need to take in the divorce. The Notice of Proceedings will also provide some general information on the divorce process.

The Notice of Proceedings will indicate when the Divorce Petition was sent to you and detail how many days you have to respond to the Divorce Petition. You will need to provide your response before this deadline using the third document; the Acknowledgment of Service.

3. The Acknowledgement of Service

The Acknowledgement of Service is an important document as it will be your opportunity to respond to any allegations and/or costs that have been detailed in the Divorce Petition.

There are various ways in which you can respond to a Divorce Petition and it is recommended that you obtain independent legal advice from a Divorce Solicitor to understand these options fully. It may well be that the amount of costs sought can be negotiated, and your Divorce Solicitor can also provide guidance on whether you should accept the allegations and information provided in the Divorce Petition.

It is usual that the Acknowledgement of Service will need to be completed and returned to the Court within 14 days of the Divorce Petition being sent out by the Court.

What if The Acknowledgement of Service Isn't Returned in Time?

The Court will usually require evidence that the Respondent has been served with the Divorce Petition.

When an Acknowledgement of Service is not returned to the Court within the 14 day period the Petitioner is entitled to use other avenues for the divorce to continue. They may well look to instruct a Bailiff to find the Respondent and personally serve them with the divorce papers. This Bailiff will then provide a statement which can be used to make an application for Deemed Service.

Deemed Service is where the Court will consider whether the Respondent has in fact been served with the divorce papers but chosen not to respond. The Court can then decide to allow the divorce to continue even without a response from the Respondent.

The Court's decision will vary depending on the circumstances and also the fact for divorce that is being cited (as some facts for divorce do not always require a response). For more information, see Can I Be Divorced without Knowing It?

Other options are also available to obtain evidence that the Respondent has been served which may not involve the use of a Bailiff. This could include a message or social media post from the Respondent stating that they have received the paperwork, for example.

How We Can Help You

At Co-op Legal Services, our experienced team of Divorce Solicitors can provide comprehensive legal advice and guidance to help you understand the divorce proceedings.

We can advise you on the contents of the Divorce Petition, the Notice of Proceedings and the Acknowledgement of Service. We can explain how the contents of these divorce papers could impact your divorce and help you to formulate your response. We can then support you throughout the divorce process and seek the best resolution for you.

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