Getting divorced when your ex doesn't cooperate

I have acted for a few clients in my career where they have been subjected to an abusive and controlling relationship and, when they find the courage to end the relationship, they are faced with further displays of controlling behaviour by their ex refusing to cooperate.

This can be extremely draining and exhausting for the party who has made the decision to end the abusive marriage if legal advice is not sought at the outset. I have had a few clients who have come to seek advice where they have been faced with uncooperative ex’s and have simply 'given up' because they did not know what their options were.

Fortunately, if one party to an unhappy marriage wishes to end the marriage, provided they can satisfy the fact upon which they are relying upon in their petition, they will get their divorce even if the other party does not cooperate – although it may take a little longer and cost a little more. 

Upset couple consider divorce

Serving divorce papers

Initial service

When the other party is served with the divorce petition, they have 14 days within which to respond by completing and returning to the court the acknowledgement of service form and hopefully stating that they do not wish to defend the divorce. 

Second attempt through personal service

If they do not cooperate, the party petitioning can arrange for personal service of the papers upon the other party. The other party will then be given a further 14 days within which to respond. 

If the party cannot be located

If they still do not cooperate then the party petitioning can apply for deemed service by providing a statement of service from the process server or court bailiff to prove that service did take place (meaning the divorce petition could not be served to the other party). This should satisfy the court after which the party petitioning can apply for the decree nisi and 6 weeks and 1 day from that date the decree absolute, which will legally end the marriage.

Financial protection in divorce

Whilst it is possible to progress the divorce in the absence of the other party cooperating, it is important to note that dealing with the financial aspects of the divorce, which is extremely important to avoid any potential claims after a divorce, may not be as easy. That said, there are options that can be explored to address this in such situations and legal advice is essential.

Get the right legal advice

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