Why Most Should Consider Filing a Response, Even in Amicable Divorce

A divorce is like any other legal proceeding where you have to file paperwork with the court. In a divorce, the person initiating the divorce proceedings is called the Petitioner. The other spouse is called the respondent. In most cases – even in an amicable divorce where both spouses agree it’s the right move – it is in the respondent’s best interest to file a Response to the divorce Petition. 

When do I file a Response to divorce papers? 

When someone files a Petition for divorce with the court, they must serve that, along with a Summons, on their spouse. A Summons is a legal document giving the respondent a certain amount of time to respond to the divorce Petition. This timeline is usually around one month. 

Why do some people choose not to respond?

Some people choose not to respond because, as a divorcing couple, they both agree to everything in the Petition. It’s an uncontested divorce, so they see no reason to bother filing added divorce papers. Further, there is a fee that must be paid to file a Response, and some spouses don’t wish to pay this or other legal fees.

Suggested reading: How to Get a Divorce Filing Fee Waived

In some states, the legal process allows both spouses to sign and file the Petition. Strict requirements apply, so if you go this route, make sure you follow your state guidelines. 

If you don’t respond, you give up certain rights

If you don’t file a Response in the timeline provided, you’re essentially waiving your right to take part in the divorce process. This means you won’t have a say if the divorce turns ugly or you want to change any privately agreed-upon details about your divorce settlement — property division, spousal support, child support, child custody, or parenting time.

What’s more, if you don’t respond, your spouse could file a request for a default divorce. This means they could tell the court how they think your property division should go – and while the court may not agree with everything your spouse says, you won’t have a say in the process if you don’t file a Response. 

Most couples have some assets and debts. In a worst-case scenario, your spouse could claim that you took out the majority of the debt and that you should be on the hook for it. 

Ultimately, filing a Response to a divorce Petition protects your rights by giving you a say in the divorce process. Putting this off, ignoring the timeline, or simply forgetting to file a Response could have dire consequences for your post-divorce life.

What if I missed the Response deadline?

Missing the Response deadline could mean losing your opportunity to participate in your divorce proceedings. That said, if you have already missed the deadline to file a Response, all may not be lost. 

  • If you and your spouse have an amicable separation, you could ask them to give you an extension to file your Response in good faith. While they’re not obligated to do so, it never hurts to ask. If you will be co-parenting minor children with your ex-spouse, it’s especially important to maintain a peaceful divorce if at all possible.
  • If your spouse has already requested a default, they could ask the court to pause the divorce proceedings while you prepare and file your Response.
  • Your spouse could ask the judge to set aside the default if the court has already entered it. This would also give you time to file your Response.

Be prepared to tell the court exactly why you didn’t file your Response on time. Note that the court may not look favorably upon you if you say you simply forgot – but at the same time, you should not lie in court if it’s the truth.

At Hello Divorce, we want to make this transition easier for divorcing couples. We understand that it’s painful and stressful and that you probably just want to get your settlement agreement written up as soon as possible. We also understand the possible consequences of not responding to a divorce Petition. If you’re unsure what to do next, contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation. One of our account coordinators can help you understand your options as well as our customizable online divorce plans, which may help alleviate your burden.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.