What is Default Divorce? / by Cassandra Hearn

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Every divorce case begins the same way: The Petitioner must file a Petition for divorce with the court. The request for divorce must contain specific information, such as the name of each party, where they reside, and when they were married. After the Petition for divorce has been properly filed, the defendant must be served. The Respondent has thirty days from the date of service to file a Response with the court. However, in some cases, the Respondent never responds after service. When this occurs, it may be the necessary for the Petitioner to file for a default divorce.

A default divorce means that the Petitioner spouse may ask to have the divorce granted even though the Respondent spouse failed to respond to the divorce pleadings in the time allowed by law. In California, the Respondent spouse has thirty days to file his or her Response.  If the Respondent does not file any Response, then on the thirty-first day, the Petitioner may file a request for a default judgment with the court. Along with the request for a default judgment, there are a variety of other forms that a Petitioner will need to file. The type of forms that need to be filed will vary with the facts of your case, but may include such items as a parenting plan order, child or a spousal support order, and property division orders.

In many situations a judge will sign the proposed default divorce order without having a hearing, but in some cases a judge may require the Petitioner to appear before completing the paperwork. In such a case, the hearing is called a “default prove-up,” and is straight forward but the Petitioner will need to appear and answer questions about the contents of the Petition and the requests that he or she is making in the default judgment.

There are also some cases in which a judge may refuse to sign default divorce papers. This typically happens where the initial or subsequent divorce pleadings were either improperly served or do not contain the right information. When this happens, the Petitioner will likely have to re-file proper pleadings and reserve the Respondent, starting the clock all over again. For this reason, even if you think that your spouse is not going to respond to the divorce paperwork, it is advisable to hire an attorney to make sure all of your steps are properly completed.

If you are facing divorce, you need the help of an experienced attorney. Contact us today at 619-800-0384, and we can help you with your divorce and attaining your goals