The acknowledgement of service (2)
If on receipt of an acknowledgement of service it is explained to the client that agreeing to a divorce does not affect his/her rights in respect of the property and/or children most people see the sense of agreeing not to defend. It more convenient and cheaper in the great majority of cases although one should not agree until the subject of costs has also been dealt with. Contested divorces are almost always a costly mistake.
Again, many people hesitate about whether they should “admit” unreasonable behaviour or adultery. The fact of the matter is that one cannot get a divorce (on these two grounds) unless the court is satisfied that the grounds exist and the easiest (and cheapest) means of proving that is an admission. If the behaviour or adultery were not admitted it would have to be proved by means of evidence and this could soon incur considerable cost – again for no especial benefit. The point to remember is that the reasons for divorce (in 98% of cases) do not affect any other issue – whether to do with children or property. So the admission can safely be made in the knowledge that neither of these other two issues is being prejudiced. In the case that there might be some anxiety about this it would be possible to limit the uses of the admission to obtaining the divorce only and making it clear that the facts would have to be proved in any other proceedings. This is sometimes advisable.
It is often the case that the Respondent is ordered to pay the costs of the divorce and so it is not normally sensible to return the Acknowledgement until agreement has been reached on this (although one should be careful not to delay so long that the Petitioner is able to proceed anyway). One should also be aware that merely indicating that you intend to defend the divorce does not automatically mean that the divorce will not still proceed as undefended and that the Respondent will be ordered to pay the costs. This does trip people up and so most Respondents do need advice at this point.
It can be seen why the questions which are raised by receiving the divorce petition and the Acknowledgement of Service often need the help of a solicitor. Although these things are simple and can be explained if one is familiar with them they are not regarded (and quite naturally) in this way by a person who is reading them for the first time. It is the receipt of these documents which often prompts people to seek legal advice about a divorce for the first time and they usually have to be explained carefully. When a client asks, ‘How long does a divorce take?’ a lot does depend on how the Respondent deals with the acknowledgement of service and whether he/she has been prepared to receive it by having its significance explained.
The previous page explained the content of the acknowledgement of service.
1. The grounds for divorce
(a) Unreasonable behaviour