While unfavorable, responding to a California divorce petition is not a complicated task. Plus, you can always employ the services of a legal document assistant to help you draft and file your response. Read on to learn more about how to respond to a California divorce petition. Plus, find out how A People’s Choice can help.
How to Respond to a California Divorce Petition: Your Three Options
If you have been served with a summons and petition to dissolve your marriage in California, you will be deemed the respondent in the court case. Additionally, the petition, Form FL-100, will specify what your spouse, the petitioner, seeks. More specifically, your partner may request a specific division of marital property, child support, spousal support, and more.
Once you’re served with a California divorce petition, you can respond in the following ways:
1. Do Nothing
Legally, you do not have to respond to your spouse’s divorce petition. However, if you fail to file a response, the court will likely grant your spouse’s requests outlined in Form FL-100. In other words, the judge will base his decision about relevant legal matters on the information your spouse provides. For example, the judge may use your spouse’s information to decide on the division of property, child support, or visitation. You will not have a say in this decision-making process; however, this may be a perfectly reasonable option for short term marriages (one year or less) with no children, property, or debt.
If you choose not to file a formal response to your partner’s divorce petition, the court clerk will enter a Request to Enter Default. Once a default is entered, the case is allowed to proceed unilaterally by the petitioner. Also, note that the petitioner can take the default of the respondent any time on or after the 31st day after service of the petition.
If a response has not been filed in the case, a default must be taken for the case to proceed, even if the parties have agreed to all the issues and signed a marital settlement agreement.
2. Request a Default Judgment By Agreement
On the other hand, if you and your spouse have reached an agreement regarding all relevant legal matters in your divorce, the petitioner can request a default judgment by agreement. In this case, the petitioner and the respondent would sign a marital settlement agreement, so you would not have to file a formal response to the petition.
Believe it or not, as a legal document assistant, most of the divorce cases we handle are completed by default with a marital settlement agreement. Couples benefit from this option because it allows both parties to take part in the divorce and agreement process. Plus, it avoids the unnecessary and added expense of the respondent’s first appearance court filing fee. Ultimately, if both parties agree and the divorce is uncontested, there is no reason for the respondent to file a formal response to the divorce petition.
3. File a Response
That said, there are some cases in which you may want to file a formal response to a California divorce petition. For example, if you disagree with anything your spouse requests in the petition, you should file a response. This action would result in a contested divorce. However, even if you believe you may eventually reach an agreement on the issues, you may still want to file a response.
Sometimes, a petitioner drags their feet and does not cooperate with attempts to reach a marital settlement agreement. To avoid this, you may want to file a response to prevent the petitioner from taking a default. Then, filing a formal response and making a court appearance will facilitate term agreement on legal issues. Plus, a court appearance will prevent an unexpected “surprise” default down the road, should the petitioner decide not to cooperate with resolving issues.
Regardless of your reasoning, filing a response to a California divorce petition will result in the court making the final decisions on contested issues. More specifically, unless the parties later agree between themselves, the court will determine the division of the marital estate, child custody and visitation, and child support.
California Divorce Petition Response 30-Day Deadline
If you want to file a response, you may do so up to 30 days after the date of service. However, if you fail to file a response or request an extension by the specified deadline, the county clerk will enter a default judgment against you. Furthermore, note that a response is considered incomplete if it does not meet all applicable legal requirements of California law. If you believe the court does not have personal jurisdiction to hear the divorce case, you can respond with a motion to quash. Contact us for more information.
Divorce Petition Response Extension
If requested, both parties may agree to extend the minimum 30 day statutory response period. That said, if you and your spouse agree to this extension, be sure to get this agreement in writing. Upon extending the response period, the petitioner may not proceed with the case until the new response deadline ends or a response is filed.
California Divorce Petition Response Forms
You will need to complete the following forms to properly respond to a California petition for divorce:
- FL-120 – Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership
- FL-330 – Proof of Personal Service or
- FL-335 – Proof of Service By Mail
If children are involved, you may also need to attach other forms to your response. Additionally, you must complete the following forms to comply with the statutory disclosure requirements and complete your preliminary disclosure:
- FL-140 – Declaration of Disclosure
- FL-150 – Income & Expense Declaration
- FL-142 – Schedule of Assets and Debts
If you require assistance completing these forms, consider hiring a legal document assistant for help.
Benefits of Using a Non-Attorney to File Response to Divorce
There are several benefits of using a non-attorney to help you in your divorce proceeding. First, a legal document assistant can help you with a default divorce and marital settlement agreement. Plus, we can also help with contested divorces.
At A People’s Choice, we have assisted thousands of people with their divorces. Also, our services are always a fraction of the cost of an attorney’s. While we do offer “document only” assistance, we also thoroughly draft legal documents and file them on your behalf. Plus, we offer several convenient options to start your proceeding, either through our online interview process, over the phone, or in person! Contact us for more information at 800-747-2780.