Your spouse has served you with divorce papers. Maybe the two of you have been discussing ending your marriage, and you agreed to let them be the one to proceed with the summons and petition. Maybe you weren’t expecting it. Either way, now you have to decide how to respond.
First, it’s essential to read the two documents carefully. They provide details regarding things you can and can’t do at this point with your assets and debts. If you have children, it may also list restrictions, such as how far you can travel with them.
If you don’t already have a family law attorney, now is the time to get one. Your attorney will help you determine your best course of action. You have four basic options.
You can choose what is called a “true default.” This means that you’re not only not contesting the divorce, but choosing not to participate. A judge will likely give your spouse whatever they’re seeking in the petition or at least base their decision on the information provided by your spouse.
If you and your spouse have already worked out an agreement regarding matters like property division, support and child custody, you may also choose not to respond. The agreement, which must be notarized, will be honored. This is called a “default with an agreement.”
You may respond to the court, stating that you agree to everything sought by your spouse in the petition. This is an “uncontested” divorce.
Finally, you can respond to the court stating that you disagree with one or more of the things sought by your spouse. This is called a “contested” divorce.
If you choose to respond, you need to do so within 30 days of when the papers are served. Therefore, if you didn’t see this coming, it’s essential to seek legal guidance as soon as possible. An experienced California family law attorney will help you work to do what is best for you and your children.