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Filing a response to a divorce petition

The first step of a divorce in California generally requires one spouse to file a petition for divorce with the courts. What happens next will depend on whether the other spouse files a response to the divorce petition and whether the couple reaches an agreement regarding their divorce.

If more than 30 days have passed since the petitioner filed the petition and the other spouse failed to respond, the case becomes a true default case, unless the parties have an agreement in place. With a true default case, the court will make the final decisions regarding the marriage, without any input from the non-responding spouse. Without a response, the court may grant whatever the filing spouse asked for in their original petition. Some people think that by failing to respond they are stopping the divorce from going forward. However, this is not the case. California law allows either spouse to end a marriage, even if the other spouse does not agree to it.

Whether a spouse files a response within 30 days or not, the couple may have a signed a written, notarized agreement to address all the issues that come with a divorce. When a couple has an agreement in place, the divorce will be considered "uncontested." The agreement can address all or some of the major issues involved in a divorce, including property and debt division, spousal support, child custody and child support. Once the agreement has been finalized, the filing spouse will have to fill out the requisite forms and turn them into the court. The court will then review the agreement and issue a final order.

If you want a say in your divorce, it is important that you respond to your spouse's divorce petition and possibly reach an agreement with your spouse regarding your divorce. Before signing an agreement, you may consult with a family law attorney about your case.

Source: California Courts, "Default/Uncontested Process," accessed on Jan. 28, 2018

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