Default Divorces: What Happens If Your Spouse Never Responds

By the time you finally decide to get a divorce, you’ve likely imagined how your spouse will respond. You may be prepared for anger, sorrow, or even relief. You might be bracing for a long, drawn-out legal battle. What most people don’t expect is for their spouse not to respond at all.

However, that happens more often than you might realize. Some people receive the divorce paperwork from the process server and shut down. If that happens, you may simply never get an official response to your petition. 

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. If your spouse is actively refusing to engage with your divorce, you may be able to request a default instead. 

What Is a Default in Family Law?

California’s no-fault divorce laws are intended to let any married person end their marriage for any reason. However, this has to be balanced against both spouses’ rights to the community property. That’s why defaults exist. 

Defaults can occur when a petitioner has their spouse served with divorce papers, and the recipient fails to respond within 30 days. If there is no response in that time, it’s assumed that the recipient does not dispute the settlement offered in the initial petition and cedes their right to participate in the proceedings. The petitioner can then request a default, in which the court will grant them all requests made in their petition and the other person will not be required to argue their case.

Impact of Default Judgments for Divorcing Couples

While waiting and never getting a response from your spouse can be frustrating, it can help you. Defaults are often beneficial to the filer. If you are granted one, your spouse will not be allowed to dispute the settlement or argue about how assets, spousal support, or child custody are allocated. 

For example, say that you requested to keep the house in exchange for granting your partner full ownership of a retirement fund in the settlement. If they fail to respond and you receive the default, the court will examine your requests to determine if they are fair. If so, you’ll get to keep the house regardless of what your spouse may have argued. 

Prepare for a Default With Expert Legal Counsel

The potential for defaults is one reason your initial divorce petition matters so much. If you become eligible for one, your divorce petition will be used to determine the final settlement. At the Viola Law Firm P.C., we can help you prepare for a potential default by drafting a comprehensive petition. Learn more about how we can support your efficient and low-stress split by scheduling your consultation today.

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