One of the initial steps in filing for a divorce in California is completing required documents and serving them to your spouse. Your spouse has 30 days after they have been served to respond. However, whether or not they answer isn’t tied to whether your divorce proceeds. In other words, their lack of response does not stop your divorce.
Your spouse’s response, or lack thereof, affects the amount of say they have in how divorce-related issues are settled. If they don’t file an answer, you may get a default divorce. You would have to fill out a few more forms before the matter is finalized.
The Divorce Papers
To begin your divorce, you must prepare the Petition and Summons. The petition is your official request to the court, asking to dissolve your marriage. You must include various pieces of information in the document, including details about your marriage and whether you meet residency requirements. You must also state how you want certain issues settled, such as property division, spousal support, and child custody.
The Summons contains a notice to your spouse about their legal rights and obligations at the beginning stages of the divorce proceedings. Essentially, it says that they have 30 days to respond to your petition and they can’t do certain things while the case is pending, such as change insurance beneficiaries or sell or dispose of property.
You must have the Petition and Summons properly served on your spouse. Service of papers ensures that your spouse is officially aware that you have begun the divorce process and that they can respond to your requests.
You can’t serve your spouse yourself. Someone 18 years of age or older must do it for you. Once they deliver the documents to your spouse, they must complete and return to you the proof of service form. This is an important step, as it affects whether your divorce case can move forward. The judge cannot make final orders if your spouse is not properly served.
Your Spouse Doesn’t Respond to Divorce Papers
After your spouse gets the Summons, they should see that they have 30 days to file a response. Their answer should include a completed Response-Marriage/Domestic Partnership form. Similar to the petition, this document details your spouse’s requests for settling divorce-related issues.
Although your spouse is given 30 days after being served to respond, that does not mean they are required to. Your spouse can choose to do nothing, meaning not send any forms back to the court.
If your spouse goes this route, your divorce is not derailed. Your case can still proceed even if your spouse’s lack of response signifies that they don’t want the marriage to be terminated.
In this situation, you can ask the court to grant a default divorce. With a default divorce, issues are settled without your spouse’s input. This means that the court will most likely approve the requests you made in your petition, provided that they are reasonable.
Finalizing a Default Divorce
If you ask for a default, you still must complete a couple more steps before your divorce is finalized.
Some of the things you must do include:
- Demonstrating you meet the requirements for a default divorce. For instance, you must show the court that your spouse was properly served and they did not respond within 30 days.
- Preparing and submitting additional forms. You may be required to complete several other documents, such as the property and income expense declarations, which are needed if you request community property to be divided or seek spousal support. You must also file the Declaration for Default form.
- Waiting for the court’s review. The court has to go over your forms to ensure that everything is there and all information is complete. Missing information could delay your case.
After you’ve completed all necessary steps, the court may finalize your divorce. In some cases, a default divorce can be decided without the petitioner appearing in court. However, if you ask for certain things, such as spousal support, the court may schedule you for a hearing. Once the judge signs off on your divorce, the court will mail a copy of the judgment to your spouse.
Even with a default divorce, the entire process can take six months or more.
Speak with a Member of the Claery & Hammond, LLP Team
Your spouse not responding to the divorce papers won’t stop your divorce. It can move forward, but you will still have several obligations to meet before the matter is finalized. Ensuring that you have the proper paperwork and have completed everything correctly is essential, but it can also be overwhelming.
Our Los Angeles lawyers can help with document preparation and through all stages in the divorce process.
Schedule a free consultation by calling us at (310) 817-6904 or submitting an online contact form today.