DEFAULT DIVORCE: WHAT IF MY EX REFUSES TO RESPOND TO MY PETITION FOR DIVORCE?
May 6, 2019 - Bob Nachshin and Heather Saint
Often, when one spouse refuses to respond to the Petition (the initial court forms used to commence divorce proceedings) nor cooperate in reaching a settlement agreement it is because they have no interest in getting divorce. The non-responsive spouse could be hoping for reconciliation or, alternatively, they could simply be trying to avoid the financial consequences of a divorce and instead would prefer to remain married but living separate lives. However, the motivation driving the non-responsive spouse is ultimately of little consequence because, unlike a marriage which undoubtedly takes two to tango, it only takes one spouse to legally dissolve a marriage.
Default divorce proceedings protect against the possibility of one spouse holding the other spouse indefinitely hostage in an unhappy marriage. If one party to the divorce refuses to respond or cooperate in the proceedings then the Court can, at the request of the participating spouse, enter a default divorce judgment in the absence of the other spouse.
Process of Obtaining a CA Default Divorce Judgment
The first step in obtaining a California default divorce judgment is to complete, and ultimately file with the Court, the Petition forms which is used to initiate the divorce proceedings. After reviewing the Petition, the Court typically returns a copy of your forms within a few business days. The returned forms reference your assigned case number that you must designate on the first page of all future documents filed in the divorce.
Once you receive the Petition back from the Court, you then must formally serve your spouse with the Petition and a blank copy of the Response forms. The other party has 30 days to respond to the Petition. If after 30 days you do not receive a Response you may then file with the Court a Request to Enter Default, along with all other documentation and mandatory forms prior to entry of judgment, including, but not limited to a, Proof of Service of Summons, Declaration Regarding service of Declaration of Disclosure, and various default judgment forms containing the proposed orders you would like the Court to render on your behalf concerning matters such as division of assets, spousal support, child support, etc.
If the Court finds that your initiating Petition was detailed and consistent enough with the default orders you are requesting the Court may enter a default judgment without first requiring a hearing or formal court appearance. Alternatively, if the Court finds the Petition to have been deficient in detail and/inconsistent with the orders requested at default the Court will either schedule a hearing or ask that the Petition be amended and re-served on the other party so that they have proper notice of the orders being requested.
Circumstances giving rise to default divorces are often quite frustrating, however, there is one aspect of a default divorce that is often appreciated and that is the accelerated timeline. The typical contested, or litigated, divorce can take several years to complete—some highly contested divorces even last decades. In an uncontested divorce, where the parties are able to reach a settlement agreement out-of-court, the parties may submit their stipulated judgment to the Court whenever it is completed, however, the Court will not enter judgment until after at least 6 months have passed since the Petition was served on the Respondent. In a default divorce, however, it is possible to have a default judgment entered in under two months.
Default divorce proceedings are not only stressful but they can be rather complicated as well since there are strict procedures and requirements that must be followed that differ from the typical divorce. The Law Offices of Robert Nachshin have a great deal of experience in default divorce proceedings. Contact us today at 310-478-4600 and let us help guide you through this process as expeditiously and stress-free as possible.