How Do I Serve Divorce Papers on my Spouse?

serve divorce papers

Before divorce papers can be served and the divorce process set in motion you will have sat down with your solicitor and discussed your situation in depth. This is an important first step because it allows you to think about the outcome you want to achieve and make sure you are prepared for the road ahead.

Your solicitor’s support will be invaluable as you draw up your divorce petition. It’s likely that you are doing this for the very first time but your solicitor is not and the experience they can share with you will help you feel reassured that you are making the right decisions for your family’s future.

The next step after seeing your solicitor and drawing up a divorce petition is to serve the papers on your spouse.

The procedure for serving divorce papers is formal and is designed to make sure the courts have proof that the respondent has received the papers. The papers will usually either be hand delivered or posted with an acceptance form that must be signed and returned to acknowledge that the papers have been received.

Your solicitor will normally be in contact with your spouse prior to the divorce being started so that service of the papers is not the first they know about it.

What happens if my spouse doesn’t respond to the divorce papers?

There was a case in the US where a judge allowed divorce papers to be served via Facebook. In this particular case, the husband had been hard to track down, had no fixed abode and had not responded to formal communication. The wife managed to persuade the court that the best way to reach him was via Facebook message.

Using Facebook to serve divorce papers may seem like an extreme measure but it underlines how important it is for the family courts to make sure the respondent is fully aware of the action being taken.

Serving divorce papers lets your spouse know that divorce proceedings have begun. The paperwork will outline the important information that they need to know, including the grounds for divorce.

There are times when all efforts to find the respondent fail. In this case an application must be made to the court to go ahead without the respondent being involved. It will be necessary to show that substantial efforts have been made to track down the elusive spouse.

If a spouse is simply ignoring the papers, there are a number of steps you can take. Your solicitor will be able to discuss the options with you. However, it is not permissible for you to give the papers to your spouse and the Court will not accept this as effective service of the papers.


Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.