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What if a person fails to respond to divorce papers?

October 2, 2017

Many people think of divorce as a mutual agreement between the two parties to end what they consider an unhappy marriage. In reality, many people who are served with divorce papers don’t agree that a divorce is necessary and want to work on the marriage instead. This can be particularly troublesome if one of the parties is intent on staying married. When this is the case, the person who is served with divorce papers may fail to respond to the papers. What then?

If one spouse doesn’t respond to divorce papers, things become a bit more complicated. This doesn’t mean that the court won’t side with the party who filed and continue on with the divorce. It just means that the party who needs the response has other options.

Asking for a default judgment

The intention of not responding to the claim might be to delay the divorce or it could just be that the non-filing spouse is too upset to respond. Either way, if your spouse doesn’t respond to the divorce papers, you can ask the judge to go ahead and grant your divorce by default. It’s just like any other type of suit where one party doesn’t respond. The complication and inconvenience is that you’ll need a no default hearing.

Don’t be too afraid. A no default hearing just gives your spouse still more time to respond to the papers you served them with and answer all the claims within. If they don’t attend the no default hearing or represent themselves at all, then it’s likely that the judge will award your divorce by default and all of your claims and stipulations will be granted.

It’s not quite as easy as that, though. If you come to court to be granted things like alimony and child support, you’re still going to need a good lawyer on your side to make sure that all of your requests are granted. In other words, you still have to prove what you’re saying. Don’t get the idea that you can simply ask for anything at will just because your spouse isn’t responding to the divorce papers or planning to show up for the hearing. It’s up to you to prove your case from beginning to finish before the judge will grant your divorce requests.

After you’ve got your divorce petition granted, things can still get more complicated after that. Your spouse CAN request that the case be re-opened. To do so, they’ll need to give good justification for it. One such justification might be that they were never actually served with papers and had no idea that a default hearing was being conducted. In this case, you might have to go back to court to pursue the matter further, and no one wants that. Make sure that if you are granted a default hearing, your spouse knows the exact date, time, and location of this hearing. Your lawyer will make sure that you do this and that your spouse is fully informed of everything going on in the case.

It’s surprising how often a spouse will delay dealing with the legal requirements of a divorce. Often it’s a simple matter of being shellshocked and very emotional. Divorce is one of the single hardest things a person will ever have to endure in life. It’s not something they planned for or expected. For the spouse that doesn’t agree with the divorce, it can be tempting to delay dealing with it. As you can see, the consequences for this can be negative.

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