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Responding to a Divorce Petition: What Are My Options?

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After filing for a divorce, your spouse is legally obligated to serve you with a copy of the divorce papers. They are required to do this to let you know that they have started the process. The documents will inform you that you can respond to the petition.

You have three options for responding:

  • File a written response with the court
  • Do not file a response because you have a written agreement with your spouse
  • Do not file a response even without a written agreement with your spouse

The path you choose to take with have substantial implications for the outcome of your case and how much say you have in how divorce-related issues will be settled. If you have been served with divorce papers, speak with a family law attorney before pursuing any course of action. They can help you understand what each response means and how it will affect you.

Contact Claery & Hammond, LLP at (310) 817-6904 for legal help in San Diego.

What Does It Mean to Be Served with Divorce Papers?

One of the first steps in filing for a divorce in California is completing and submitting a petition and summons. The petition is your spouse’s official request for a dissolution of marriage. It contains basic information about your marriage and what your spouse is asking for in terms of child custody, visitation, child supportspousal support, and property division, among other things.

The summons is the notification to you that your spouse has filed for a divorce. The first page of this document lets you know that you have 30 days to respond and the consequences for not responding.

The second page of the summons outlines general restraints applying to you and your spouse.

For instance, you cannot:

  • Take your minor children out of the state without permission from the other parent or the court,
  • Make changes to insurance policies affecting the other your spouse or your children, or
  • Dispose of or conceal any property or money.

To be served with divorce papers means that you get a copy of the petition and summons (and any other relevant documents). Generally, the process of service is done by someone over 18 years of age or a professional process server hand delivering the documents to you. Your spouse won’t be the one to do this.

How Can I Respond to the Petition and Summons?

After being served, you can respond to your spouse’s divorce request.

As noted earlier, you can respond in one of three ways:

  • Submit a response: You can file an official response form to the court. The document is similar to the copy of the petition you received. The difference is that it would contain your requests concerning divorce-related matters. Filing a response indicates that you will be involved in the proceedings and would like the court to consider your input when making final decisions. If you file a response, you must serve your spouse with a copy, just as they served you with the initial divorce forms.
  • Do not file a response because you have an agreement with your spouse: Before your spouse filed for divorce, you and they may have agreed on how to resolve the various issues that must be considered in a dissolution of marriage. For the court to consider the arrangements, you must have them written up. Your spouse will then include them with the documents they initially submitted. The court will make final orders in your case based on what’s included in the agreement. This is called a default by agreement. Essentially, you have a say in the divorce but are not actively participating in the next steps.
  • Do not file a response even without an agreement with your spouse: You can choose to do nothing after receiving the divorce papers. However, when you go this route, the court will decide divorce-related issues based on what your spouse requested in the petition. You will not have any input. This is called a default divorce.

What Happens After I Respond to a Divorce Petition and Summons?

Within 30 days after you were served with the divorce papers, your case will proceed, whether you responded or not. How it moves forward depends on how you answered.

If you filed a response, the next step is exchanging financial information with your spouse. Then, decisions must be made about critical divorce-related issues.

If you did not respond, your spouse would have to complete a few more steps before the divorce is finalized. The court will mail a copy of the final orders to you.

Regardless of the course of action you took, it will be at least 6 months before your divorce is completed.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Firm

If you have been served with divorce papers, speak with a member of our San Diego team to discuss your options.

Call Claery & Hammond, LLP at (310) 817-6904 or submit an online contact form today.

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