When the spouse is served in a Divorce matter, he/she has 30 days to ‘respond’. Sometimes people confuse the ‘proof of service’ papers with the ‘response’ document. These two actions are not the same!
A ‘proof of service’ is needed for all Divorce petitions. The ‘proof of service’ needs to be filed with the court and is the formal notification that a Divorce has been filed. When the parties are in agreement, the Divorce packet can be served by mail. In this case, the ‘respondent’ would complete, sign and date the ‘notice and acknowledgement’ (proof of service) and mail back the original (it can also be faxed) to the petitioner or to the law firm or company etc that will be filing it with the court. The respondent can also be served by another adult (not a child of the marriage), process server or sheriff.
The date of service is the beginning of the Divorce process. The respondent has 30 days from the date of service to file a response. This is a time when the respondent may wish to seek legal advice to determine if he/she should respond or not. A response is not always necessary. An experienced Divorce attorney can make clear what the petitioner is requesting in the petition and what options the respondent may have. In cases where there are issues, it is usually a good idea to respond in order to protect one’s legal rights. Once the respondent responds, agreements can still be made or the parties can elect to go to trial.
When the respondent does not respond, the petitioner can enter a ‘default’ after the 30 day time period. When there are no issues (no children, property, assets or debts or support requested) the divorce can be finalized without a court appearance and usually within the minimum time period of 6 months and 1 day from the date of service. However, when there are issues, a ‘default’ hearing will be arranged for the petitioner. An attorney is usually not necessary. In this case the judge will make a ruling on any outstanding issues.
A ‘default’ can also be entered with an agreement. The agreement would include all issues and how the parties wish to address them. This type of Divorce is typically finalized without a court appearance and usually within the minimum time period of 6 months and 1 day from the date of service.