What happens if I file divorce and the other party doesn't answer within the twenty day time period?

Asked over 2 years ago - Bellevue, WA

I filed for divorce on April 19, 2012 and had the other party served on April 20, 2012, but he never filed a response. Will he be able to file anything in relation to the divorce at this point? Or might I be granted my divorce by default.

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Thuong-Tri Nguyen

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . In WA, there is a statutory 90-day waiting period before the court can enter final orders in a dissolution of marriage (divorce).

    In civil cases (of which dissolution is a type), one party can ask the court for a default judgment when the other does not respond in the time allowed to respond. In WA, the time to respond to a civil case is generally 20 days after service done within WA (and 60 days for out of state service).

    So, in theory, for a dissolution, the court can enter an order of default after 20 days if the respondent does not respond in the time allowed. However, the court would not enter any order relating to the dissolution (such as the decree, order of child support, parenting plan) until the 90-day period has passed.

    Moreover, WA courts prefer deciding cases on the merits of the facts and will vacate an order of default if the other party acts reasonably quickly after the order of default is entered. So, if your dissolution is going to end by default, you likely should wait for the 90-day period to pass.

    If you win by default, the court is not going to enter any order giving you more than the reliefs asked for in the petition.

    You can review the free information provided by WA LawHelp at http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/WA/index.cfm . Perhaps the self-help guides there are enough for you to finalize your petition.

    You can also review your specific facts with your attorney to find out your legal options.

  2. Joshua A Pops


    Contributor Level 11


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . After 90 days, submit all the paperwork to the court. This means all; if you do not ask for it at that point, you will not get it. However, as stated below, there is always a chance that the court will find a reason to vacate the default order. This does not always happen, but often enough for it to be an issue. Make sure you address all the issues in the dissolution now; that way if he does not respond you get what you ask for, and if he does respond you already have the issues on the table. Either way, this is a good time for you to prepare where you want the case to go.

  3. Michael John Gainer

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . He can always file anything. : ) This does not mean the court will consider what he files. Until you get an Order of Default, he can file at any time before final papers are entered by the court. If you get an Order of Default, he will have to bring a motion to set aside the default and explain why he did not respond before anything he files is considered by the court. If he hasn't entered a Notice of Appearance or Responded to the Peittion he does not have to be notified of a Motion for Default or the presentment of final pleadings.

    Most of the time, it makes sense to just put your final papers together (only asking for what you asked for in the Petition unless you file and serve an Amended Petition), make sure an Affidavit of Service is filed with the court and after 90 days from service, present your final papers for entry. Some counties require you to submit your final papers to the court ahead of time for review and have special hearing times and days for people without attorneys to present the final pleadings.

    Many counties also have a Family Law Court Facilitator who helps people without attorneys for little or no charge.

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