Once you have filed your divorce petition, your spouse is required to follow the court rules to file the acknowledgement of service within 8 days of receiving it. But what should you do if they refuse to sign it.
In practice, it does not matter if the acknowledgement of service is filed a bit late with the court. The court won’t do anything about it unless you get in touch with them.
The easiest way to go forward will always be for your spouse to file an acknowledgement of service, so it is worth encouraging/pressuring them to do so, even if they are late.
Application for Deemed Service
However, if your spouse refuses to send the acknowledgement of service to the court, it is possible for you to apply to the court for an order for what is called ‘deemed service’. It is not common for people to have to do that, but if you do have to do it, it is not complex or time-consuming. You must prove to the court that your spouse has received the divorce papers (often done by showing a chain of emails and/or that the documents were sent by registered post etc). If the court is satisfied that your spouse has received the papers, it will make an order that your spouse was served on a particular date. You will then be able to proceed with your application for decree nisi.
Ultimately a refusal by your husband/wife to acknowledge the divorce petition cannot prevent the divorce from proceeding, although it can slow it down slightly and potentially cause an increase in the amount of paperwork that needs to be filed. The end result will still be the same – these days divorce is inevitable if one spouse is determined to pursue it.