When the court issues a divorce petition, it will usually send a copy by first class post to the respondent. The respondent is provided with a form, known as the acknowledgement of service, to complete, sign and return to the court. This is the opportunity for the respondent to confirm that they have received the papers and to indicate whether or not they will be objecting to the divorce.
A deadline is imposed by the court: the respondent has 7 days to return the acknowledgement of service to the court. If the court does not receive the form within the deadline then various options are open to the petitioner as to how to progress the divorce.
The recent case of Re W (A Child); Re H (Children)  EWCA Civ 1177 highlighted the need to comply with the court timetable. However, it is important not to take shortcuts or to falsify court documents in an effort to meet those deadlines.
James Maguire & Co were recently told of one case where the parties cut corners. The parties were anxious to comply with the court’s 7 day deadline, but the wife was out of the country. The wife therefore “authorised” the husband to sign the acknowledgement of service of her behalf. To make matters worse, the husband later signed a statement of truth, indicating that he believed the signature to be that of his wife. This was despite the warning that he would be in contempt of court if he made a false statement.
If the husband had taken legal advice at an early stage, he would have been informed that he could have agreed to extend the 7 day deadline. This would have given the wife the opportunity to sign the acknowledgement of service herself.
Instead, the husband now finds himself in contempt of court. There could be significant questions as to the validity of the divorce if he does not take steps to correct the situation. In turn, this could lead to extensive complications for financial matters in the future. Depending on the assets at stake, the legal costs of resolving matters could be many times the cost of instructing a solicitor in relation to the divorce at an early stage.
James Maguire & Co is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this and children matters including child maintenance. We can also advise on Schedule1 Children Act 1989 applications.
We advise clients in the Wilmslow area and also to the surrounding areas of Alderley Edge, Bramhall, Hale, Altrincham, Manchester and the North West. We are also able to act for clients nationally and internationally subject to the jurisdiction of England and Wales. For advice please contact James Maguire by telephone +44 (0) 1625 529456 or by email james.maguire@family-law.