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Notice: This page is part of an old, outdated guide to divorce - it is only applicable to readers whose divorce began before 6th April 2022. Anyone whose divorce started after this date (or whose divorce has not yet started) should instead read our updated guide to the new no-fault divorce process.

Step 4) If your spouse doesn't respond to the court

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Your spouse is supposed to respond to court within 8 days. During this period most people are in communication with their spouse of their spouse's solicitor and you will probably get some indication of if they have any issues with the document and if/when they plan to return it.

If they say they will return the documents but it will take a little longer than 8 days then it is worth being patient for a week or two.


If you have been waiting for a few weeks and you want to take some action to get things moving your options are:

a) Serve the papers using Court Baliffs or a process server

If your spouse is denying receiving the papers or you have had no contact you need to serve the Divorce Papers on them, using one of two methods:

If the respondent or any co-respondent fails to return Form D10 (acknowledgment of service) to the court, then 8 days after the petition was sent, the petitioner may get 2 copies from the court of Form D89 (request for bailiff service). With this form the petitioner must also send a photograph or a written description of the respondent or co-respondent together with a fee for each person being served. If the respondent still fails to return Form D10 after bailiff service you can apply for a court order for deemed service or dispensing service.

Another option is to engage a process server both of which tend to be quicker than bailiffs, typically the cost is around £100, this also includes an affidavit to be sworn at court stating service was made.

b) Apply to the court for deemed service or to dispense with service.

Once you have formally served papers using Baliffs or Process Servers and you have still had no response, then you can ask the court to proceed with the divorce without your spouse's approval.

This area can be difficult for 'litigants in person' as it is not a well covered by online or printed divorce guides. If you need help or advice in this area feel free to call the advisors on the Wikivorce helpline on 01202 805020.

Defended Divorces - very rare

It is not uncommon for a spouse to ignore the court papers or throw them in the bin or just do nothing. What is much more rare is where a spouse says that they plan to defend the divorce - which means they want to try to stop the divorce happening and stay married. The reason that this is rare is that it costs a lot of money to defend a divorce and will almost certainly fail to work.

If the respondent intends to defend the divorce, within 29 days (including the day of receipt) of the petition and statement of arrangements from the Court, he or she must send to the Court a defence known as an 'Answer'. A defended divorce leading to a final contested hearing is very rare as the vast majority of parties reach an agreement during divorce proceedings. A defended divorce leading to a final hearing is also very expensive often costing £15k-£30k for each party.

If you know the respondent intends to defend the case but does not respond within 29 days, you can apply for directions for trial. The petitioner must complete Form D84 (application for directions for trial - special procedure) and Form D80 (affidavit of evidence) which are provided free from the court. There are different versions of Form D80 for each of the five grounds for divorce. If you swear the affidavit at court, it is free of charge.

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