If you are served with divorce papers can you simply ignore them? 26 Answers as of January 24, 2011

if you are served with divorce papers, can you simply refuse to not appear in court?

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Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP
Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP | Michael A. Fischer
Yes, you can technically ignore the divorce papers. But, if you do so, the other party can file a request for a default. More than likely, the other party will be awarded everything they requested if the dissolution proceeds by default. Therefore, you should not ignore any papers you are served with. You should file a response to the petition for dissolution within thirty days of being served. It would be beneficial to contact an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/24/2011
Law Office of John C. Volz
Law Office of John C. Volz | John C. Volz
If you ignore them, your spouse can proceed without you. The other party may file a request for a default dissolution and be granted the relief that they are requesting if you choose to ignore the papers.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/18/2011
Law Office of Harry L Styron
Law Office of Harry L Styron | Harry L Styron
No. Generally you must respond to any lawsuit, including a divorce, within 30 days after you are served. If you do not then the person who filed the divorce can file a request for default, and after that ask the court for exactly what they want, and generally they will get it, within some limits.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/18/2011
John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
You can only ignore them at your peril! Without knowing your specific situation, it is only possible to warn you that the general consequence of ignoring the papers is that the Court is entitled to presume you do not care what the terms of the divorce are. In that case, the Court will in all likelihood grant your spouse whatever he/she is asking for. It will be very difficult to later challenge what the court does when you eventually find out. Before you simply ignore the paperwork, you should consult an attorney who can better advise you about what could happen if you do nothing.
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 1/17/2011
Naziri Hanassab LLP
Naziri Hanassab LLP | Vahid Naziri
Technically yes, but then the other party can proceed with filing default judgment against you and you wont have any say.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/17/2011
    Maclean Chung Law Firm
    Maclean Chung Law Firm | G. Thomas MacLean Jr.
    You can also refuse to appear, answer, or ignore divorce papers, but in doing so, you will not have any participation in the resolution of the case, and your spouse will be able to enter a default against you for not answering. The divorce will proceed whether or not you file an answer, which means your spouse can still get divorced if you ignore the papers. You may choose to ignore the divorce papers if your spouse is not requesting anything from you, and you do not oppose getting divorced, but you should consult with an attorney with your specific situation to understand the consequences of not filing an answer.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Law Office of Joseph A. Katz
    Law Office of Joseph A. Katz | Joseph A. Katz
    To Whom It May Concern: Yes, you can certainly ignore the papers. However, then the other side with take a Default upon you. The facts accepted by the Court will be only those provided by the other party and the Court may make rulings involving your children, property and rights that might make you very unhappy. It is best to file your Response within thirty (30) days of receipt of the Petition and Summons. If there is nothing to fight about, no children, no assets, you do not have anything to lose (e.g., a pension the other party could join to the litigation) and just want your legal status back to 'single', then you might be able to ignore the paperwork. This suggested list is not exhaustive though, and you have no right to rely upon it as security. Who knows what the other party is saying, and I have no idea, of course, what issues could be involved in your case. What if they are asking for a Temporary Restraining Order? If it was granted you would not be able to own a gun. It is better to know that is happening to you in Court.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
    While you can ignore divorce papers served upon you, it is unwise to do so. If you ignore them, your default will be taken, and you will likely become your own victim: you won't be allowed to oppose requests for relief by your spouse which may be contrary to your interests,you won't be allowed to participate in the case,and orders will be made and a Judgment entered by the Court which will be binding on you,which, if you violate,could result in significant economic and potentially criminal (contempt of court) consequences to you.

    Whereas it might otherwise be possible to prevail on a promptly-filed Motion to Set Aside Default under Code of Civil Procedure Section 473for mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect, if you intentionally ignore divorce papers served upon you, it is unlikely that the Court would set aside your default on a CCP Section 473 Motion.

    You should consult, in person, with a Family Law Attorney as soon as possible, to enable you to learn the value of your participation in the divorce case before that option becomes unavailable, and to timely participate and potentially make a difference in the outcome of the case.

    If the reason for your question is that you don't want the divorce, you need to know that you can't prevent the divorce by not participating in it. You should seek psychological counseling to assist you in making rational decisions so that your interests can be protected in the divorce case instead of just letting the dice fall where they may.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Cramer Latham LLC
    Cramer Latham LLC | Victoria Cramer
    Bad idea. A default will be entered against you.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
    You can ignore them but it will not stop the divorce. Your spouse will simply get the divorce without you and take whatever he/she wants in the process.

    A divorce, like any other civil lawsuit (as opposed to a criminal charge) can be resolved by the court without your participation as long as precautions are taken to ensure the Responding party/Defendant knows the suit has been filed. This notice is accomplished through personal service. Once you are served, the Court allows you 20 days plus Monday to respond. (For general information purposes, just call it 20 days.) The only thing the Petitioner/Plaintiff must show at a default hearing is that the service was perfected or reasonable notice was given that satisfies the law. Once this is done, the Petitioner/Plaintiff can ask the court for whatever relief he or she wants - in a divorce that can mean a divorce (including divorce for cause), award of property, assignment of debts, name change for the Petitioner/Plaintiff, and if there are children, the Petitioner/Plaintiff can get custody of the kids, child support (based on his or her testimony of what the Respondent earns), back child support and if the marriage lasted over 10 years (temporary spousal support). I have seen default cases where a party took all of her husband's retirement - he defaulted so the Court awarded what she asked for.

    Accordingly, the short answer to your question is "yes" you can simply ignore it. However, ignoring the problem will never make it go away and usually it makes it worse. If you are trying to avoid the divorce, ignoring the service will not stop the process.

    I would strongly recommend you answer the suit. At least file a General Denial - this is the equivalent of two kids on a playground and the first (the Petitioner/Plaintiff) accuses the second of some act. The Second child's response is "Oh yeah, prove it!" That is a General Denial, though in the law, we just say "Now comes the Defendant/Respondent and files a General Denial and demands strict proof." As with anything legal, we add some other language, but literally, that statement is the one that counts. It tells the court that you are served, you know the suit is pending, you deny everything, and that you want to be advised of all settings so that you can appear and defend your rights.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate | Patrick Curry
    The court will enter your default and proceed without you, making orders and awarding the assets to your ex.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Stuart Jon Bierman  Attorney at Law
    Stuart Jon Bierman Attorney at Law | Stuart Jon Bierman
    NO! In NJ, if you ignore the papers then your spouse's attorney will file an application to enter a default against you. They are routinely granted if the person was properly served. After that, you will lose your right to be fully or adequately heard if there are any issues in dispute, such as child support, child custody, visitation, equitable distribution, marital debts, etc. A person should always always always consult with an attorney (not a layperson who thinks they know what they are talking about) after being served with divorce papers. The lawyer can review the papers and discuss your particular circumstances to determine if there are any risks to your financial and other interests if you ignore the papers. The long term consequences of ignoring the papers could be very negative and substantial so you should speak with a lawyer about your particular situation.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Gresham Family & Bankruptcy Law
    Gresham Family & Bankruptcy Law | Lillian Suelzle Watson
    DO NOT ignore the papers as they are very important. The result of a divorce will impact your financial future, your rights and obligations if you have children, and may affect your retirement benefits. When you are served with divorce papers, you have 30 days to respond or the other party will be allowed to enter a judgment against you without your consent. In other words, you may be required to pay spousal or child support, limit the time you spend with your children, or impact your property rights and obligations.

    You should read the summons carefully and, at the very least, send the other party (or their attorney) with a letter stating you want to be consulted and/or are willing to discuss how best to resolve any issues surrounding your divorce.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Law Office of Martin Blank
    Law Office of Martin Blank | Martin E. Blank
    If you are served with a divorce complaint only, you do not have to appear. However, by not appearing, your spouse will be able to get the judge to enter a judgment that may have provisions you feel are unjust. Most often ignoring litigation as a defendant is a mistake.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Goldberg Jones
    Goldberg Jones | Zephyr Hill
    If you do, the other side will go to court without you and get whatever he or she asks for because you will be in "Default."
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Goodman, Dicus, and Teinert, LLP
    Goodman, Dicus, and Teinert, LLP | Paul M. Teinert
    Once you are served with divorce papers you have 30 days to respond. If you choose not to respond the dissolution will proceed without you by default. My advice would be to respond yourself or with the help of an attorney. Filing a response will allow you to have some say in the court ordered division of assets etc.... otherwise you will be bound with what the court orders.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    The Law Offices of Robert B. Pollack, P.C.
    The Law Offices of Robert B. Pollack, P.C. | Robert Pollack
    Service of divorce papers does not necessarily mean you must physically appear in Court. If you are served personally, which is what is required in New York in a divorce, you have 20 days to "appear" and that does not generally mean that you must show up in Court. You must show all papers served to an attorney to be properly advised. However, one should never ignore Court papers. Ignoring them could end up with you being held in default and/or other sanctions. See an attorney immediately if you have been served.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson | Michael E. Hendrickson
    Of course, and and then your spouse will most likely be granted a default decree of divorce.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    You do not have to participate but the case will proceed and orders will enter without your input.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 1/17/2011
    Law Office of Tim W. Avery
    Law Office of Tim W. Avery | Tim W. Avery
    If you fail to respond to the divorce petition and fail to appear in court, a default judgment can be taken against you and any relief that the petitioner requests will be granted. You need to file a timely pleading entitled Original Answer and appear in court to protect your rights to property and children, if any.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 1/16/2011
    Law Office of Stephen Pearcy
    Law Office of Stephen Pearcy | Stephen Pearcy
    If you ignore service by mail by failing to acknowledge receipt of the mailing, you could be required to pay for in-person service. Also, if you ignore formal service and don't appear, there could be a default judgment granting everything your spouse asked for in the papers with which you were served.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/16/2011
    Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law
    Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law | Diana K. Zilko
    If you are served with the Summons and Petition and choose not to file a Response, then the petitioner can simply take your default and seek a judgment without your participation. If there any issues that are important to you, like division of assets, debts, or child custody, it is usually a good idea to participate in the process and be heard.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/16/2011
    Pisarra and Grist
    Pisarra and Grist | David T. Pisarra
    Yes you can. We don't generally recommend it because the Petitioner will then get a default judgment against you. That means they will get a divorce from you and if there is any Community Property the court can give it to them.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/16/2011
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