The introduction of the ‘no fault’ divorce has overhauled the arduous outdated process and removed the element of blame that was previously required to satisfy the court that a parties marriage had irretrievably broken down. However, there are still requirements of service and strict time frames that must be adhered to by both parties to ensure that a final order is reached without issue.
The court currently allows 28 days from the date an application is issued by the court for the Respondent to be served with the paperwork. In most cases, the court will effect service on the Applicants behalf by first class post and via email unless the Applicant requests otherwise. However, If the Respondent is a protected party or they live outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales, it is important that the Applicant takes the correct procedural steps to ensure the application is served on time and in line with the Family Procedure Rules. It is never appropriate for an Applicant to personally serve the application upon the Respondent as is commonly portrayed in tv dramas and soaps.
Service outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales is an area which can become complex and requires early intervention and assistance by a Solicitor. International service (where a party lives abroad) requires steps to be taken to effect service as are permitted by the law of the country in which the application needs to be served. It is therefore important that legal advice is obtained from the outset to ensure that international practitioners or relevant parties are contacted and the 28 day service period is adhered to.
In the event that a 28 day period is not long enough and more time is required an application for an extension of time must be made to the court and supported by evidence. The court will consider whether the applicant has taken reasonable steps to serve the application in time, whether the Applicant has acted promptly and if the period for service has passed, whether the Applicant has good reason for this.
In the event that the application for extension of service time is rejected, an Applicant could be asked to re issue the divorce application and pay the court fee of £593 again. Therefore this highlights why getting service right from the off is so important.
If a Respondent in the jurisdiction of England and Wales fails to respond to the application, a Solicitor can discuss what options are available to an Applicant in order for progression to be made, such as instructing a process server, applying for deemed service or applying for alternative service/dispense with service.
If you need any advice on issues regarding divorce applications, or have a jurisdictional or service query, Samantha Chase or another member of the Family team at Ellisons can assist and can be contacted.