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What if a spouse won’t respond to divorce petition

What can you do if your husband or wife will not respond to a divorce petition?

If you and your solicitor have served a divorce petition on your spouse, they are instructed by the paperwork to respond within a set period of time.  They need to reply to say whether they will defend the divorce or not.  What happens if they do not respond?

Divorce proceedings can be painful and distressing enough, even if things go quickly and smoothly, if there is such a thing.  But if your estranged husband or wife is being awkward and not responding to solicitor letters, it can become even more stressful.

Once the court has approved your divorce petition, it will be served on your partner.  If they do not respond within the set period, usually a couple of weeks, your solicitor will take further steps.  This may involve sending another copy by signed-for delivery or using a person acting as a process server to personally deliver and serve the papers.

If your partner still does not respond to the divorce petition, your solicitor may recommend that you apply to the court to have service deemed good.

What this means is that your solicitor will prepare an affidavit, a sworn statement, testifying that they have taken all reasonable steps to serve the divorce papers on your spouse.  They will apply to the court to have a hearing in front of a court official, sometimes called a master of the court.

The solicitor will present the affidavit and provide evidence of the steps they have taken to ensure the divorce papers have been served.

If the master of the court agrees that all reasonable steps have been taken, they will deem that service has been made good.  In other words, the papers have been served successfully and your partner, in not responding, has effectively given up their right to defend the divorce petition.  So in effect, it was as if your husband or wife returned the paperwork sent with the divorce petition saying that they will not defend the divorce.

If the master of the court confirms service was deemed good, it allows your solicitor to proceed to the next step in the divorce proceedings.  The solicitor can apply to the court for a decree nisi hearing, with the understanding that the divorce petition will not be defended by your estranged spouse.


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