Can I still get a divorce if my spouse doesn't cooperate?

Going through a divorce is understandably a difficult experience for some, and that experience may be worsened depending on how your spouse chooses to respond to your decision to file for a divorce. So what options are available to you if your spouse chooses not to cooperate?

The first step in the divorce process is to complete a divorce petition form and send this to the Court. Once the divorce petition has been approved, a copy is issued by the Court and sent to both you and your spouse.

The next step is for your spouse to sign and return an Acknowledgment of Service form within 14 days from the date of its issue. However, if your spouse simply does not return the Acknowledgment of Service some might think that a divorce cannot move forward.

However, there are alternative options available. 

Personal Service

This means that the papers will be personally served upon your spouse. This can be undertaken by a Process Server or a Court Bailiff. 

You can instruct a Process Server by contacting an Investigation Service. Alternatively, you can instruct a Court Bailiff by making an application to the Court.

You will need to provide a brief physical description of your spouse, their address and/or where they are likely to be found. Once your spouse has been personally served, the Process Server/Court Bailiff will provide an affidavit which will satisfy the Court that service has taken place. 

It is important to note that there will be a fee for both methods of personal service.

Deemed Service

If you are aware that your spouse has had sight of the divorce petition and is simply choosing to avoid signing and returning the Acknowledgment of Service then you may be able to make an application to the Court for ‘deemed service’. 

You will need to satisfy the Court that you are aware that your spouse has had sight of the divorce petition. It is entirely at the Court’s discretion as to whether or not an Order should be made that service is deemed to have taken place. 

You will need to pay a Court fee to make an application for deemed service.

Service at an alternative address or by an alternative method

If you believe that your spouse is more likely to receive the divorce petition at another address (i.e. a friend or parent’s address), then an application can be made to the Court to seek that it be served at an alternative address to that contained within the divorce petition. Service at an alternative address will incur a Court fee.

Dispense with Service

If you have exhausted all of the above methods of service, then you can complete a statement in support of a request to dispense with service of the divorce (known as a Form D13B). To do this, you will need to show the Court all the steps you have taken to serve the divorce petition on your spouse and explain why you have been unsuccessful. This is then sent to your local Divorce Centre for consideration.

Again, this method will incur a Court fee.

What happens next?

Once you have satisfied the Court that service has taken place - or that service can be dispensed with - you can then proceed with the next step, which is to make an application for Decree Nisi.

If you are going through a divorce and think you may be required to utilise some of the methods described in this article, it is recommended that you seek legal advice from an expert. 


Hannah Rainsford is a Trainee Legal Executive based in our Weoley Castle office. You can telephone Hannah on 0121 685 8123 or email her at

If you would like more advice in relation to your divorce proceedings, QualitySolicitors Davisons’ family law team can assist. You can contact us on 0121 685 1248.

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