First 30 Days of Divorce / by Cassandra Hearn

Beginning any type of law suit can be stressful, and a divorce is certainly no exception. In the first thirty days of divorce, there are fairly specific steps that must be taken, and understanding these rules and steps can help remove some of the stress. Although every divorce will have its own issues and nuances, the beginning of each contested divorce begins in roughly the same way.


To begin a divorce proceeding, one of the spouses must file a Petition for Divorce. The person who files first is referred to as the “Petitioner” and the other spouse will thereafter be referred to as the “Respondent.”  The Petition for Divorce is what tells the court that you are asking for divorce, and will also recite whether you are asking for custody of children you may share with your spouse, child support, spousal support, or attorney’s fees. Once the Petition is filed with the court, the Respondent must be served with the Petition. Service may be accomplished using a private process server or any adult over the age of 18 (who is not a party to the case) may serve. Put another way, just about any adult other than the Petitioner can serve the Respondent with the papers.


Once the Respondent has been properly served, he or she will have thirty days to file a response with the court. The Response will recite whether the Respondent agrees or disagrees with the Petitioner’s basic claims, and it will probably counter with some requests of his or her own. After the Response has been filed, either party may request a hearing for temporary relief. This is called a “Request for Order.” The hearing will allow the court to make orders regarding financial matters and child custody that will be in effect until the parties settle the divorce, or until the final hearing.


If the Respondent fails to file a Response within thirty days, the Petitioner may file a motion for a default judgment. This simply means that because the Respondent has not filed a Response, the Petitioner should be granted everything he or she asks for “by default.”  If the Respondent does not appear at the default hearing, the court will hear brief evidence and typically grant the Petitioner’s requests so long as the requests appear to be fair. The court does not prefer default judgments, and the court will typically want to ensure that Respondent has had the opportunity to participate; therefore, default requests should only be brought where it is fairly clear that Respondent will not participate at all.  If the Respondent decides to later participate, and does so within six months of a default hearing, the default order will likely be un-done. 


The first thirty days can be a time of change and chaos, but we are here to answer your questions. Contact us today at 619-800-0384 to discuss your divorce and how to get started.