I swear, I was literally just thinking about the dire need for a law or rule to be enacted that bars clerks from giving legal advice, and to hold them accountable whenever they do so and they're wrong (which happens too often). The clerk is WRONG. If you don't file/serve a response, your soon-to-be-ex can proceed by default and obtain orders that are not in your best interest. You really should file/serve your Response and participate in the divorce proceedings, even you don't dispute whatever it is that your ex is asking for. To be legally divorced, you both have to wait 6-months and 1-day after the date on which you were personally served with the Summons/Petition. Your case can be completed and everything filed prior to that 6-month date, but the court will post-date the judgment so that you're legally divorced 6-months after being personally served.
Please be advised this response is being provided for informational purposes only. It is not meant or intended to be relied upon as legal advice.
You got very bad advice. And I think you are totally confused about the process as to how divorces are granted. If you dont answer, the you stand a very big chance that your ex will enter a default against you and will proceed without your input or objections. You don't contest the divorce but you need to protect all of your "rights" and that would include spousal support, division of all assets AND debts. So file your answer, or if a default was entered, then you need to file a motion to set it aside stating the very bad advice that you got. Next as to the divorce process, the filing of a petition does not mean that a divorce will be automatically granted. It is up to the parties to get the divorce to completion either by coming to an agreement on the issues of the marraige and having a stipulation/agreement drafted and then submitted to the court for the judges signature OR the parties request a trial whereby the court divides all assets AND debts and makes the decision such as spousal support etc and also then terminates the status of the marriage. But, if there is a trial, the parties still need to submit an actual judgment for the court to sign after the trial. AND there are other steps before getting to this end that each party must take. So, again, I really believe you need help from a family law attorney. Most pro pers make huge mistakes on their "rights" as to most issues.
I am trying not to laugh. So much for self-help...
If you don't respond your ex will take a default against you and get everything they asked for. You will have no say in the proceedings and it will appear to the court that you are not interested in the outcome.
You need to file a response to immediately and preserve your rights. I would speak to an attorney and skip this particular self-help office.
Dawn M. Saenz is licensed to practice law in the State of California and the California Supreme Court, and cannot give advice about the laws of other jurisdictions. All comments on this site are intended for informational purposes only, and are not intended to constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or solicit business. No posts or comments on this site are in any way confidential. Each case is unique. Information not contained in these posts may create significant exceptions to the advice provided in any response. You are advised to have counsel at all stages of any legal proceeding, and to speak with your own lawyer in private to get advice about your specific situation.
It is true that if nothing is contested, you may allow the case to proceed and a judgment to be issued without your participation - but as previous lawyers have answered, you are taking a big chance. I obviously have not read the Petition, I do not know the duration of the marriage, whether you have children together, what assets and obligations may exist, or whether support or attorney fees are at issue. The only safe approach is to file a Response, but that does entail a filing fee (unless you file a successful fee waiver application) and it obligates you to prepare and serve disclosure documents.
The answer to your specific question is that the court has no authority to change the parties' marital status to that of unmarried persons until at least 6 months after the date the Summons and Petition were served on you; however, that does not happen automatically. If there are no support or custody orders in place, then the case should be dismissed by operation of law if it is not brought to trial or judgment within 5 years of the date the initial Summons and Petition were filed. So the answer is, a divorce judgment could be issued any time between 6 months after you were served and 5 years after the Petition was filed.
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