Couples that are able to obtain a California default divorce judgment usually either 1) have no issues that need to be addressed or resolved by the court or 2) have been able to work out an amicable divorce agreement between themselves. Sometimes, however, there are marital issues that need to be addressed and resolved, but the other side has not filed a Response nor cooperated with the Petitioner to work out an agreement. In all three situations it is possible to get a default divorce judgment by the court.
What is a Default Divorce Judgment?
A Default judgment is a binding judgment that is entered by the court in favor of a party due to a lack of action or failure to take action by the other party in the case. In most situations, the default judgment is in favor of the plaintiff or petitioner because the defendant or respondent has not responded to a summons. The failure of the other party to take action and to respond to the Summons is the “default.” The default judgment is the judgment that is entered by the court based on relief requested in the party’s original petition. In order for a court to render a default Judgment, the petitioning documents must set forth accurate, clear and concise details of all issues that the court will need to decide on. If the petitioning documents are deficient in this important information, the court may reject the plaintiff or petitioner’s request for a default judgment, and require the Petition be amended and the other party re-served.
Steps to a CA Default Divorce Judgment
The first step to obtaining a California default divorce judgment is to file the initiating Petition paperwork to start the process. A Petition for divorce, legal separation or annulment is filed with the court and the court issues a case number. All future documents filed in the divorce proceeding must refer to the assigned case number.
Once a case has been filed, the Petitioner must formally serve their spouse with the divorce, legal separation or annulment paperwork. When the other party has been served, this starts the clock running and sets the timeline for when a default divorce judgment can be submitted to the court.
After service of the initiating documents, the other party has 30 days within which they can file a Response. During this time, the Petitioner should comply with the mandatory disclosure requirements and serve their spouse with a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, Schedule of Assets and Debts and Income and Expense Declaration. This first preliminary disclosure is absolutely mandatory for the Petitioner. The second disclosure requirements and the need to file a Final Disclosure can be waived.
If no Response is filed by the other party, on the 31st day a Request to Enter Default can be submitted along with the other documentation and mandatory forms required to have the court enter a default divorce judgment.
Default Divorce Hearing
Although a default divorce hearing is not typically required, on occasion a judge will refuse to sign a default judgment based on the paperwork submitted. In this situation, you may need to ask for a formal hearing before the judge to proceed with the default judgment. Sometimes the court may decide that the initiating Petition was deficient and did not contain sufficient factual and supporting information to enable the court to enter a default judgment. In this unfortunate situation, the judge may ask that the Petition be amended and re-served on the other party to give more detailed information.
An annulment always requires a hearing and the court will not enter a default judgment without formal, in-court testimony.
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