Once the Petition has been issued by the court, it must be “served” on the other party (the Respondent). This usually takes effect by either the court or the Petitioner’s solicitors sending the Petition and accompanying divorce documents to the Respondent by first class post. If the Respondent is legally represented, it may also be possible to serve the issued divorce papers on the Respondent’s solicitors provided they have confirmed beforehand that they are instructed to accept service on behalf of the Respondent.

Once the Respondent has received the issued divorce papers, they must complete and return to the court, within 7 days after receipt of the divorce papers, a court-generated document known as an Acknowledgment of Service which asks them to confirm they have received the Petition, to indicate whether they intend to defend the divorce and whether any claim for costs is disputed. If the Respondent is being served outside of England and Wales, then the time limit for returning the Acknowledgment of Service is extended. If the Petition is based on adultery or 2 years’ separation with consent, the Respondent is required personally to sign the Acknowledgment of Service. In all other cases the Respondent’s solicitor can sign on their behalf if so instructed.