A default divorce is a one-sided judgment that occurs when someone fails to respond to divorce papers in time. The spouse filing for the divorce (the petitioner) can then ask for a default judgment in the other spouse's absence.
A default divorce technically begins when one spouse files a petition for divorce. Under normal circumstances, the respondent spouse takes action. When they don't, the filing becomes a default divorce, and that person loses the right to contest the court's orders.
Many divorce cases go into default because petitioners can't find their spouses. But in other cases, a couple will intentionally pursue a default divorce.
Anyone can file for a default divorce if the respondent spouse fails to respond to the petition for divorce. Each state has its own laws that specify how you need to try to contact your spouse and how long you need to wait for a response.
In some cases, couples will privately choose to file a default divorce. In this case, one spouse agrees to file the petition for divorce along with an agreed-upon set of court orders. The other spouse privately agrees to take no action in response to the petition.
This method can potentially save both parties from hiring lawyers and filing other paperwork. However, this can be a risky proposition for respondents. They lose their rights to contest the court ruling, even if the petitioner has changed some part of the court order.
Furthermore, a default divorce may not settle all matters if children, alimony payments, or joint property are involved.
The longest part of a default divorce is waiting for the respondent to take action. You can't immediately file for a default divorce after serving the respondent. Some states even specify that you must use several methods for serving your spouse before filing a default divorce.
This waiting period is 20 to 30 days for most methods of service. If you serve your spouse by publication in a newspaper or legal journal, you must allow 60 days for your spouse to respond.
After the respondent spouse has failed to respond, you must file an application and affidavit of default. You'll then need to wait another 10 days for a response. If you still don't get one, you may schedule a default hearing with the court, where most cases are promptly settled.
A default divorce involves minimal costs. The petitioner must pay the filing fee for the divorce plus any fees required for the sheriff's office or private process server to deliver the divorce papers. The exact costs vary by state.
These fees are the only fees required for a default divorce. However, you may want to ask for a divorce attorney's services, and both you and your spouse should consider doing so if you've agreed to pursue a default divorce.
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