As I stated in my earlier blog entitled Divorce made Simple 3 – Issuing Proceedings, if your spouse (the respondent) fails to return the Court papers known as the Acknowledgment of Service Form to the Court within 7 days you need to wait a further 7 days before you can take further action.
On a practical level it would be worthwhile for you to contact the Court on around the fourteenth day to see if the Acknowledgement of Service form has been returned or not. When telephoning the Court make sure that you have your case number, which is usually found on the top right hand corner of all Court documents received from the Court, so that the Court can quickly process your query.
If the respondent has not returned the paperwork then essentially you have four options:
1. Simply wait a further period of time (as long as you wish) to see if the respondent will return the paperwork to the Court and it may simply be the case that the respondent was busy or otherwise unable to return the paperwork within the relatively short time scale;
2. Arrange for the Court to re-serve by post the Court papers on the respondent. This will entail you providing full copies of all the original documentation that you had to the Court and they will re-issue them for you. If you do not have copies then be warned, if you ask the Court to provide you with copies they will charge you quite a hefty photocopying fee;
3. You could arrange for a bailiff (a Court Officer who will act as a process server) to serve the papers on the respondent. You need to complete a Form EX160 and pay a Court fee which was only £10 and was worth the while. However it has very sharply risen to over £100 for the privilege of having a Court Bailiff serve the papers on the respondent. The court bailiff will make several attempts to serve the respondent with the papers and will either confirm with documentation to indicate they have been successful in serving the papers, in which case you follow a course of action referred to below, or that they have not been successful in serving the papers in which case you will need to consider your alternatives;
4. You could arrange for a private process server (google “process servers”) to arrange for service of the documents. Previously private process servers were far more expensive than Court Bailiffs but nowadays the costs are pretty much the same. My personal view of private process servers is that they like to maintain their reputation as being successful process servers and work just that little bit harder to ensure the paperwork is served on the respondent. Hence of the latter to options I tend to prefer private process servers.
As with Court bailiffs mentioned at point three above the process server will either be successful, in which case they will provide you with a Statement of Service, or they will be unsuccessful and notify you accordingly.
Looking at options 3 & 4 then, the process server or the Court Bailiff may have been successful in serving the papers on the respondent and as a consequence you would need to wait a further 29 days (I will not go into the reasons why those dates apply on this blog) before you can ask the Court to proceed to the next stage. Please see later blogs for further details in that regard. It may be the case that the respondent now having been personally served with the papers will behave more sensibly in returning the Acknowledgement of Service form. That is not, unfortunately, usually the case.
If the process server has been unsuccessful in serving the papers then you need to consider what your alternatives are. I will cover this process in the next blog.
This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.
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