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The acknowledgment of service form is a key step in the divorce process. Without it, your divorce cannot proceed.
In this guide we'll look at everything you need to know about the acknowledgment of service, including:
- What is the acknowledgment of service form?
- How do I complete the acknowledgment of service form?
- What can I do if my spouse refuses to return the acknowledgement of service form?
Let's dive in...
What Is The Divorce Acknowledgement Of Service Form?
Simply put, the acknowledgment of service form is an official court document that must be completed and returned by someone who receives a divorce petition from their spouse.
If you are the person applying for a divorce (the "Applicant"), then you will need to serve the divorce petition on your spouse (who is called 'the Respondent').
When you send the court divorce papers, you must also include an acknowledgement of service form.
This is a court form that the Respondent can use to confirm they have received the divorce petition; to show that they accept service of process by signing the acknowledgment of service; and to challenge the divorce if they wish to do so.
Why Do I Need To Complete An Acknowledgement of Service Form?
The acknowledgment of service form is part of the divorce application that acknowledges that the Respondent spouse has received and reviewed the divorce petition (or <bloglink>dissolution petition<bloglink> in the case of a civil partnership).
The reasons the courts insist that the Respondent is sent an acknowledgment of service form (aka the <bloglink>D10 form<bloglink>) are:
- The court has to make sure that the Respondent spouse is well aware of the Petitioner spouse’s decision to start a divorce.
- The court needs to gauge what the Respondent spouse has to say – if anything at all – in response to the divorce application.
- The Respondent spouse must be given a chance to contest the divorce, or any other elements of the petition (such as jurisdiction) if they wish to.
The Respondent spouse is usually given a period of seven days to return the acknowledgement of service form to the court. In case he or she is out of the country, this time period can be extended – although an upper limit is usually set by the court.
The Respondent spouse can ask their solicitor to complete and return the form on their behalf, however, he or she must be physically present to sign the form at the end before submitting it to the court.
Alternatively, if the divorce petition came with an access code included, you will be able to return the acknowledgment of service form online at the <bloglink>gov.uk<bloglink> website.
How Do I Submit The Acknowledgement Of Service Form?
Even if both parties consent to a divorce, one spouse has to assume the role of the Petitioner and file divorce proceedings in court. The other spouse will automatically become the Respondent. For a divorce to take place in England and Wales, the marriage has to have lasted for at least a year and the Petitioner has to establish, to the court’s satisfaction, that the marriage is irretrievably broken down.
(Note: if you have been married for less than a year, you may be able to <bloglink>apply for an annulment<bloglink> instead).
The irretrievable breakdown of your marriage must be based on one of the following <bloglink>five grounds of divorce:<bloglink>
Frankly, Respondents rarely contest the actual divorce. Most couples agree to get divorced (ie. to end their marriage), and it is more common for disputes to arise regarding the <bloglink>division of the family finances<bloglink>, or child custody arrangements.
However, if you feel that either the grounds stated in the divorce application are untrue or you simply do not want to separate, you may <bloglink>contest the divorce.<bloglink>
Either way, the acknowledgement of service form (the Form D10) will serve as your answer to the divorce petition. Be wary of the timescales, though. The court usually designates a specific time period during which you can contest the divorce. If you miss the deadline, the whole process can restart and become tedious for the Respondent, Petitioner, and the solicitors involved.
How Do I Fill Out The Form?
The acknowledgement of service form asks the Respondent a number of questions –some of them are pretty straightforward, while others can be a bit complicated.
Here’s how to answer each of the questions:
Have you received the divorce petition?
The sealed divorce petition envelope should contain the following:
- The divorce petition itself, in clear and legible text.
- The acknowledgement of service form
- A guidance booklet on how to complete the acknowledgement of service form.
If you received all three items, answer yes to this question.
Are there any court proceedings outside of the United Kingdom relating to the marriage?
In 99% of cases the answer to this question will be no.
However, occasionally couples have ongoing divorce proceedings in another country (particularly if they are dual national). If this is the case you need to briefly describe those foreign proceedings on this part of the form. The court will ask for more information later down the line if needs be.
What is your nationality, your country of residence, and your county of domicile?
The answer to all three questions may or may not be the same. Habitual residence is where you spend the majority of your time, your domiciled residence is where you have a permanent home and pay taxes, and your nationality is as stated on your passport.
For most people, all three are the same country. But if not, make sure you explain this on the form.
Do you agree with the jurisdiction mentioned in the proceedings?
This is the country where the divorce will be heard (ie England and Wales). If you disagree, and believe the divorce should be processed in a different <bloglink>jurisdiction<bloglink> (eg. Scotland, Ireland, or any other country), then say so and state your reasons why. The court may then list a hearing to determine what the correct jurisdiction should be.
On which date and address did you receive the petition?
State the date when you received the petition, not when you’re filing it in. Also state the address where you received the package. This may or may not be your home address.
Are you the respondent mentioned in this divorce?
The answer to this should be yes.
The only time the answer would be no is if you are the co-respondent in cases of adultery. In short, a spouse who was cheated on can also name the third-party who their wife or husband had an affair with, as a co-respondent to the divorce- meaning that person would also need to be served a copy of the divorce petition.
Do you intend to defend the case?
If you intend to contest the divorce, consult with your solicitor before answering. Defending a <bloglink>divorce is very expensive<bloglink> and rarely succeeds.
Remember, defending the divorce means you do not want to divorce even though your spouse views the marriage to have irretrievably broken down.
If you agree to divorce (even if you still have arguments to make about the division of financial assets or child custody -which is very common), then you should state that you are not defending the case.
Any financial or child custody disputes can then be resolved as part of your overall divorce process later down the line.
In case of a petition pertaining to adultery – do you acknowledge committing adultery?
State whether or not you agree to any allegations of adultery made in the divorce petition.
If no adultery is alleged, simply state n/a.
Do you object to paying for the divorce proceedings? If not, state why?
Often, where couples both agree to get divorced they also negotiate splitting the costs of the application. If you can’t agree, you should state ‘yes’ in this section, and the court may list the matter for a hearing to determine costs.
How Can I Progress My Divorce If My Spouse Will Not Complete The Acknowledgement Of Service Form?
The acknowledgement of service is necessary for the court to begin divorce proceedings.
The court will simply not allow your divorce to progress until the acknowledgement of service has been completed and returned by your spouse.
Unfortunately, contesting spouses may delay their response time to frustrate or <bloglink>slow the divorce.<bloglink> It’s not unheard of for a spouse to simply refuse to return the form, or to avoid service (ie. purposefully avoiding the divorce petition being delivered to them).
There are number of methods you can use to defeat a spouse who is actively trying to avoid service of the divorce petition:
What Should You Do If You Have Ongoing Divorce Proceedings In Another Country?
In a case there are court proceedings relating to the marriage in another country outside of the United Kingdom, you will have to briefly mention the nature of the case on the acknowledgment of service form, and give details as to whether the case has been suspended, come to a conclusion, or is ongoing etc. You will also have to present an accurate timeline along with any court reference numbers you have, the name of the court, and the presiding judge (if known).