If your spouse has started divorce proceedings in England or Wales, you will be known as the respondent because you have to respond to the divorce papers. Your ex is known as the applicant. After the court has received the applicant’s divorce application, the court will send the acknowledgement of service to you.
What is an Acknowledgement of Service?
An acknowledgement of service is a legal document used during divorce proceedings.
Please note that throughout this article, I use the term document, which can mean either a physical or a digital document if you complete the acknowledgement of service online.
The purpose of the acknowledgement of service is for the respondent to tell the court that they’ve received the divorce paperwork and acknowledge that the applicant wants to divorce them. The respondent must complete the document by answering all the questions and return it to the court. The document can be sent to the court by post in the case of a paper application or electronically if you respond online.
How does the acknowledgement of service fit in the divorce proceedings?
You must have been married for at least a year to get a divorce in England or Wales. The document that starts the divorce is known as the divorce application.
Under the no-fault law, one spouse applies for a divorce, or you can apply jointly and both be applicants. If you have to acknowledge the service, your spouse has applied for divorce, and you are the respondent.
The divorce application is sent to the court to start divorce proceedings. It contains basic information about the separated couple and a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
The court then sends the petition to the respondent with the acknowledgement of service.
The respondent must complete the acknowledgement of service within fourteen days. This deadline is longer if the respondent lives outside of England and Wales.
If the respondent doesn’t return the acknowledgement of service, you may have to serve the divorce petition by hand. For more information, see My spouse won’t respond to the divorce petition – now what can I do?
How to fill out an acknowledgement of service form
The acknowledgement of service form asks several questions. Here is some guidance on how to answer them.
1. Is the application for divorce, dissolution or (judicial) separation?
Look at the accompanying notice of proceedings letter you’ve received with the acknowledgement of service to find out which application you have and tick the appropriate box. Generally speaking, it will be a divorce if you are married or dissolution if you have a civil partnership.
2. Have you read the divorce application?
You should have received a copy of the divorce petition with the acknowledgement of service, so the answer should be Yes.
3. When did you receive the application?
Enter the date you received the divorce petition from the court.
4. Do you intend to dispute the application?
Since the introduction of the no-fault divorce law on the 6th of April 2022, it isn’t possible to dispute and try to stop divorce proceedings. The only exception to this is if you think the English court does not have jurisdiction to deal with your divorce. An example is if neither you nor your spouse lives in England or Wales.
If you intend to dispute the divorce, you should get legal advice from a solicitor because disputing a divorce will increase your legal costs.
5. Do you agree the courts of England and Wales have jurisdiction?
Tick Yes unless you intend to dispute the divorce (see question 4 above).
Jurisdiction is the country where the divorce will be processed. If you think your divorce should be heard in another country, answer No.
6. In which country is your life mainly based?
Write down the country where you live and spend most of your time.
7. Do you intend to ask the court to delay your divorce or dissolution until it is satisfied with your financial situation?
A divorce is the legal ending of a marriage. It does not deal with finances. Finances are agreed and made legally binding in something called a financial order. You can read all about financial orders here. In most cases, the financial arrangements are agreed upon simultaneously with the divorce process. If this is your plan, tick No.
Tick yes, if you feel that your spouse is hiding or disposing of assets or if they are refusing to reach a fair financial settlement because you might have to take them to court for a judge to make a ruling.
If you tick Yes, you must complete a Form B and take legal advice.
8. Are there any existing or previous court proceedings relating to your marriage (including proceedings overseas)?
The answer to this will usually be no, but if there are other divorce proceedings, then the response will be yes, and you will need to provide the case number and the name of the court and describe the case briefly.
The next section will ask if you want to keep your address confidential from your ex-husband or wife. If you do, you must complete a C8 form to apply to keep your details confidential from your spouse.
Bear in mind that if you’ve received the acknowledgement of service, your spouse knows where you live because they wrote your address in the divorce application.
If you don’t want to keep your address confidential, tick no and write your address.
Signing the Statement of Truth
The final step is to sign a statement of truth that the information you have given is true.
If you don’t have a solicitor acting for you, sign and date the statement of truth. If a solicitor is working for you, they will complete this section.
You have fourteen days from receipt of your acknowledgement of service form to complete and return it to the court. You can email it to email@example.com, or you can send it by post to:
HMCTS Divorce and Dissolution Service
PO Box 13226
The acknowledgement of service can feel intimidating until you get a handle on the terminology. I hope this walk-through has answered all your questions. If you have a question we haven’t covered or would like more clarity on financial orders, email us, call 0204 530 8101 or book a free consultation here.