The acknowledgement of service
The Acknowledgment of Service is the document which is sent by the court to the Respondent at the same time as the divorce petition and which the Respondent is requested to complete and return to the court. Most of the acknowledgement of service form is quite straightforward and causes no problems. Essentially, the Respondent is asked to answer the following questions and to sign and return the document to the court:-
1. Have you received the divorce petition?
2. On which date and at which address did you receive it?
3. Are you the person named as the Respondent in the petition?
4. Do you agree with the ground for jurisdiction?
5. Do you intend to defend the case?
6. Do you admit the (adultery, unreasonable behaviour etc)?
7. Even if you do not intend to defend the case do you object to paying the cost of the proceedings?
8. Have you received a copy of the Statement of Arrangements for the children? Do you agree with the proposals?
How to answer these questions very frequently causes concern (just as the wording of the divorce petition does) and it is delay on the part of the Respondent in dealing with the divorce petition because of his/her doubts about the wording of the divorce petition and how to complete the Acknowledgment of Service that often causes delay to the timetable of the divorce. If these doubts are resolved quickly (or, indeed, explained even before the documents are received) it can speed matters along considerably. It is also a good thing in itself that people know exactly what is happening and why.
In practice only points (4) to (8) cause any difficulty and the other three are self explanatory. It may, however, perhaps be worth mentioning that the Respondent cannot stop the divorce simply by not returning the Acknowledgment of Service. If he/she does not do so within a reasonable time scale what is likely to happen is that another copy of the petition will be served personally by a court bailiff or the petitioner’s solicitor or there may be alternative methods of service. If this happens it will inevitably incur extra costs which the Respondent will almost certainly be asked (or made) to pay. It is, therefore, usually a bad idea not to send the Acknowledgment of Service back to the court if the Respondent just wants to frustrate the divorce. Not returning the Acknowledgment for that reason is rarely a sensible course of action.
Contested divorces are rare for the very good reasons that (a) the presentation of a divorce petition is a fairly clear indication that the marriage has broken down and (b) because it can cost a lot of money to contest a divorce with no obvious benefit to be gained at the end of the day. If the Respondent does want to contest a divorce then he/she should answer, ‘yes’, to the question, ‘do you intend to defend the divorce?’ Please note that just answering this question with a ‘yes’ does not make a contested divorce. In order to do that a Respondent has to go further and, within a certain time limit, file an Answer. It may also be sensible to file a cross petition divorce if the Respondent does want a divorce but only objects to it being granted to the Petitioner. There is a fee payable to the court for defending a divorce or issuing a cross petition. The separate fees payable to file and Answer and to issue one’s own petition are a significant outlay and a further reason why defended divorces are very rare.
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The acknowledgement of service