What is a Divorce by Default in California?

As if "divorce by default" isn't obscure enough, there are actually two types, and one is very different from the other. Both types refer to a divorce where one party filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (FL-100) and the other did not formally Respond (i.e., file a Response, FL-120). However, a "true default" is much more complicated than an "uncontested divorce."

What is a "true default" divorce?

If a Response has not been filed to the Petition for Divorce, the Petitioner (the spouse who filed for divorce) can move forward with the divorce by filing a request for default with the court. The effect of the default is that the spouse who did not file a Response gives up their right to have any say in their divorce. Concurrently or right after filing a Request for Default, the Petitioner can prepare a (proposed) judgment for the judge to review and (hopefully) sign.

The court treats this type of divorce much differently than others because the Respondent is not participating in the divorce at all. In some cases, the judge will require the filing of additional forms or a "prove up hearing" to explain what orders you want and why. (For example, "I'd like to sell the house and split the proceeds equally because we purchased the home during our marriage with joint funds.") A judge may even want you to amend previously filed forms to provide more detail. Because this type of divorce can be tricky, you may want to meet with a lawyer to discuss a game plan.

What is Default with Agreement, "uncontested," or "amicable" divorce?

This type of divorce is typically what Hello Divorce users choose when filing for divorce. Like a "true default," the Respondent does not file a Response. But in this scenario, your ex still signs the divorce agreement. If you and your spouse have a complete agreement or are working toward one, this is a great way to cut costs and time. And because your spouse is "participating" by signing the agreement at the end of the divorce, the judge won't scrutinize it as much. Whether you are ready to DIY your divorce with our form-generating software or you prefer an account coordinator to do it for you, we have your back.