How Long Do You Have to Respond After Being Served Divorce Papers?

All of the steps involved in the California divorce process must be followed to have a valid and legally enforceable dissolution of marriage. If your spouse is the one who files for divorce, one of the most important steps to be aware of is your response to the initial petition. If you do not respond by the time limit, the courts may grant your spouse the divorce on his or her terms without giving you the opportunity to negotiate for what you want.

Most Responses Must Be Filed Within 30 Days

In California, most individuals have a time limit of 30 calendar days from the date that they receive notice of a Divorce Summons (Form FL-110) to issue a response. The spouse who files the divorce petition is known as the Petitioner, while the other spouse is the Respondent.

A Respondent is subject to the orders of a Divorce Summons from the moment it is received. This includes any restraining orders or similar prohibitions that may be included. The time limit on the ability to respond to a Divorce Summons also starts on the date of receipt. If the Respondent does not file a response within 30 days, the Petitioner can proceed with the divorce without the Respondent’s input.

Can I File for an Extension?

While it is possible to request a response extension to a divorce summons in California, it is up to the courts whether or not to give one to you. You will need your ex-spouse’s written and signed agreement to the extension for a judge to consider your request. Submit this request to the courts to ask for the extra time that you may need.

What Happens if You Fail to Respond Within 30 Days?

It is imperative to respond to the divorce petition within your deadline if you wish to change any of your ex-spouse’s proposed terms for the dissolution. Failing to respond to divorce papers will not stop the divorce from happening. Instead, it will allow the divorce case to proceed as your ex-spouse desires, without your input.

California law states that if the Respondent does not respond within 30 days, the Petitioner may be granted a “default divorce” by the courts. A default divorce means the court will make an order regarding the terms of your divorce without your active participation in the matter.

How to Respond to a Divorce Summons in California

If you are served divorce papers and wish to respond, you must do so with the official Response (Form FL-120). You must provide basic information about your marriage and the terms you wish to contest. If you and your spouse share children, you must also submit Form FL-105: the Declaration under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

Be sure to carefully fill out the Response based on what you want. You must file your response with the court and pay the filing fee (unless you qualify for a fee waiver). Then, you must officially notify your spouse of your Response by serving them the papers, or formally delivering copies of the paperwork to them. Someone other than yourself legally must serve the Response.

It is a good idea to respond to a Divorce Summons as soon as possible to protect your legal rights. If you procrastinate in your response, you could unintentionally miss your deadline. If you do miss the 30-day response time limit, check with the court to find out if your spouse already received a default divorce. If not, you can still file your Response. If there is a default, contact a San Diego divorce attorney to discuss your legal options.