What Happens if my Spouse Ignores the Divorce Petition?

What Happens if my Spouse Ignores the Divorce Petition?

Can I Still Proceed?

Many people are often concerned that their spouse will ignore the Divorce Petition to try to delay or stop the Divorce. Thankfully, for the majority of people, this is often only a worry, rather than reality.

There are, however, some occasions when a spouse does ignore correspondence and/or the Divorce Petition – so what can you do if this happens?

Issue of a divorce

After the Divorce Petition has been issued, the Court will send a copy of the Petition and an Acknowledgment of Service to the Respondent spouse.

The Respondent is required to complete an Acknowledgment of Service (which is provided to them by the Court) within 8 days. To confirm whether they will agree to the Divorce or intend to defend the same, if:

Progressing the Divorce

If your spouse does not return the Acknowledgment of Service to the Court, you can still progress the Divorce. How this is achieved depends upon the fact relied upon in the Divorce Petition.


It is preferable to secure your spouse’s written Admission of Adultery before you commence proceedings for Divorce on this fact.  In the event that your spouse does not then return the Acknowledgment of Service you can proceed as follows:

  1. Deemed Service. This involves a separate application to the Court for an Order that the Petition be deemed to have been served upon the Respondent. So that the Divorce can then proceed without your spouses’ Acknowledgment of Service.

To apply, you will need evidence that your spouse has received the issued Divorce Petition. This may be satisfied by:

If the Court is satisfied your spouse has received the Divorce Petition, you can proceed with a Divorce. You can then take the next step by applying for the Decree Nisi (even if your spouse has not provided their consent).

  1. Application to Dispense with Service. In certain circumstances, the Court may allow you to dispense with service (for example, if you cannot locate your spouse). In this situation, you would need to provide evidence to the Court that you have made every effort to try to locate your spouse. If satisfied, the Court will allow service to be dispensed with and you can proceed with the next stage in the Divorce. This method is considered to be the last resort.

If you do not have a signed Admission Statement then you would need to prove the Adultery or seek to amend your Petition to another ground.

Two years separation with Consent

In order to rely on this fact, you will need your spouse’s consent. Therefore, if they do not return the Acknowledgment of Service, you cannot proceed with a Divorce based upon this fact. However, you can amend your Divorce Petition and rely on a fact that does not require their consent/agreement (for example, unreasonable behaviour).

Behaviour, Five years Separation and Desertion

The good news is that if you are relying on one of these facts to support a Petition for Divorce, you are likely to be able to proceed, even if your spouse does not return the Acknowledgment of Service. This may be achieved by:

  1. Deemed Service
  2. Application to dispense with service

Get in touch

In view of the fact all of your circumstances are different, it is always important to seek advice from an experienced family law specialist to discuss your circumstances and consider the different options available to you.

If you wish to speak to any of the family law team about the subject of What Happens if my Spouse Ignores the Divorce Petition, or anything related to this, then please get in touch. Either call on 01323 727321 to arrange an appointment  or please fill in the form below and someone will get in touch.

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At Hart Reade, all of our family law solicitors are members of Resolution, which means we are committed to resolving matters by agreement and in a non-confrontational manner. We can provide you with a wealth of information, advice and support to assist you during what can be a difficult time. 

Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice. You should always speak to a legal professional to discuss your circumstances and consider your options.