Failure to Respond to Divorce Papers

If a spouse does not respond to divorce papers, in many jurisdictions the judge will order the spouse that is filing for the divorce to publish a notice of the divorce petition in a court approved publication such as a newspaper.

Different states have different divorce laws and what is best for different individuals varies greatly. What different states require and what different judges will order to be done when a spouse does not respond to being served with divorce papers will differ from one divorce to another.

To Be Served or Not to Be Served

It can be incredibly trying and frustrating to want to move on with your life and to sever your legal ties with an estranged spouse when you can’t find them to be able to do this. If you are in this situation or in a situation where your spouse is deliberately avoiding being served with divorce papers, an experienced divorce attorney may be able to help.

It can also be incredibly trying and frustrating to be blindsided by a spouse wanting a divorce when you did not get fair warning, are not ready for this and/or do not want this. Unfortunately, hiding from a spouse who is trying to have you served with divorce papers may put you in a situation where you lose what you are entitled to. As unfair as it may feel, if you refuse to participate in your divorce, it can and most likely will proceed without you. As long as a spouse notifies their soon to be ex and follows the court’s rules and judge’s orders, they can get a final divorce decree without their spouse’s signature.


If your spouse has been served with a divorce petition and they ignore your divorce complaint, you may be able to ask a court to issue a default judgment.

Default is a legal term that is used to describe the failure of a defendant, including in a divorce petition or complaint, to respond to a lawsuit.

An unanswered divorce complaint may warrant a judge granting the petitioner a divorce by default. This is an involved process that many people recommend enlisting the help of a divorce lawyer to do this. One of the many things that needs to be done is to file an affidavit with the court that demonstrates you’ve served your spouse with the petition and that they have failed to respond to it. A judge may make rulings on all of the orders you’ve requested including ones pertaining to alimony, child support, child custody and visitation rights, property, assets, debts and other divorce related issues. If your spouse fails to respond, there is a good chance that the judge will grant your requests.

It is important to protect your rights during a divorce. One way you can do this is to retain the help of an attorney in your area that is licensed to protect the rights of people going through a divorce.

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