What problems can happen if I do not respond to a divorce petition? 6 Answers as of March 08, 2011

I live in California. My wife and I have been married less than two years and recently separated. We have agreed on the division of our property. (cars and furniture) All paperwork has been signed transferring vehicles, and car loans etc. to each other as we agreed upon. I do not want a divorce but my wife will most likely file. If she does file and she asks for nothing else in the petition besides the divorce and change of name, do I have to respond? If I don't, I know she will be granted the divorce but could there be other legal ramifications I'm aware of? Will handling it this way cost either of us more money? Thank you.

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Goldberg Jones
Goldberg Jones | Zephyr Hill
If you do not file a Response to her Petition for Dissolution you will be in Default and your wife can then get just about anything she asks for. There are many good and some bad ways this can go. If you have an agreement, then this might be a good plan. As far as fees and costs, you would save money, but you would force your wife to go through extra steps that might cost her more money than if you cooperated and signed a Settlement agreement. You should call an attorney and discuss this further before deciding what to do.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/8/2011
Michael Apicella
Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
If you don't respond to the Petition, then your wife can take your default. If she does, then she could theoretically obtain orders on all terms she asks for, assuming she proves up her financial claims (if any).

By the way, if your wife wants a divorce, there is no way to stop it, for instance, by not participating. It only takes one party to process a divorce in California. If she insists on a divorce, then it is best to try to reach agreements on all issues (which it seems you may have done that), and then proceed by "default with agreement." That is where you both sign a marital settlement agreement that contains all the terms on all resolved issues. In that event, you would not need to file a Response to the Petition. Instead, you file a number of required papers that indicate you and your wife have resolved all issues by agreement, with the marital settlement agreement attached. If any other questions, feel free to call. Good luck!
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/8/2011
Edwin Fahlen Attorney at Law
Edwin Fahlen Attorney at Law | Edwin Fahlen
Your failure to file a response to the petition could lead to a tragic consequence. This will allow your wife to go to court and obtain a judgment dividing the community ANYWAY SHE WANTS IT. Of course, if she is an honest person, and makes an equal fair distribution, in accordance with your "agreement" then no harm no foul. I cannot count the number of times a spouse has "trusted" the other spouse to obtain an equal fair distribution, only to find out the non-responding spouse was hoodwinked, got nothing but debt and astronomical support obligations. As with anything in the law, no one should "duck and hope for the best". You have nothing to gain, and everything to lose. When anything in life is done right, it is a wise choice.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/8/2011
Law Office of Curry & Westgate
Law Office of Curry & Westgate | Patrick Curry
You can proceed as you have outlined if you trust she will not take advantage of you. If she does take advantage, it will cost you a lot of money, time and heartache.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/8/2011
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
It is not mandatory that you respond to the Petition, but you should read everything in the Petition, as soon as you are served, to see what your wife is asking for in her Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, to determine whether it would be wise for you to respond to the Petition.

If you don't understand (and agree with) the requests for relief that she made in her Petition(whether by checking a box, orin printed language in the body of the Petition), or if you have any questions about whether or how you should respond to what was specifically requested in the Petition, I strongly recommend that you promptly arrange an in-person consultation with an experienced Family Law Attorney, to advise you of the consequences of a failure to respond to the Petition in view of the specific relief requested.

You have only 30 days to respond to the Petition (i.e., to file and have someone other than you serve your Form FL-120 Response, along with a Proof of Service), and if you fail to do so, your default will likely be sought and entered, resulting in your inability to contest anything your wife requests and your inability to participate in the divorce case.

Things that your wife could request in her Petition may be attorney's fees (if you don't respond, you could be ordered to pay some or all of her attorney's fees), spousal support, and/or property that you thought that you and she agreed that you could have, among other things.

If all your wife requests in her Petition is a Status Dissolution of your Marriage, and nothing else, it is unlikely that your failure to respond to the Petition would have negative consequences to you, but you would be safest to consult with an experienced Divorce Lawyer regarding the Petition long before your 30-day response time expires.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/8/2011
    Law Office of Joseph A. Katz
    Law Office of Joseph A. Katz | Joseph A. Katz
    You should consult a qualified Family Law Attorney in your jurisdiction for a free consultation. There could be severe problems for you, unless you are positive that she will be ethical and honorable. Just because she takes a Default upon you does not mean that you cannot reach, draft and file a Stipulation with her. Do that. Review all paperwork very carefully. The Stipulation should say that she waives spousal support forever, and more or less as follows: "The parties agree that Petitioners waiver is irrevocable and non-modifiable, per Family Code section 3651 and pursuant to In re Marriage of Vomacka (1984) 36 Cal.3d 459, and In re Marriage of Brown (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 785)."
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/8/2011
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