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Should I respond to a divorce petition in California?

When a person in California is served with a divorce petition, he or she must decide whether to respond to it or not. Failure to respond will result in the process being a default or an uncontested case. There is a difference between simply not responding and not responding with the intention of negotiating a settlement with the other party and hashing out the divorce legal issues. It is important to know the difference and decide if negotiation is preferable to responding.

A case that is considered true default means that the case was filed, there was no response and there was no agreement as to the issues at hand in the proceeding. If the response is not made within 30 days and there is no agreement between the parties, then the person who filed will have his or her desires met without input from the other party. That will affect property division, child custody and other issues. A response gives the person a say in the case. Short of that, a negotiation on the important factors in the case precludes the need to respond. This is a tactical decision.

Deciding to come to an agreement over the divorce legal issues is often preferable than having a court dispute. With the agreement, the parties can divide property and debt; decide on support; and agree on custody and visitation if there are children. For people who are in a relatively amicable situation, this might be the better road to take as it can avoid a lengthy process and save time and money. It is wise to understand the difference between a default and a true default as they will lead to different outcomes.

Every divorce is different. The end of a marriage can be a contentious matter, it can be something the parties agree that is for the best for everyone, or it can be somewhere in the middle. Knowing the difference in defaults is a crucial part of the case because some issues cannot be negotiated and others can. Failure to adhere to the time constraints and a lack of understanding of these terms can cause problems for both sides. A legal professional who is experienced in divorce can help to decide on the strategy that is best suited to each individual case.

Source: courts.ca.gov, "Default/Uncontested Process," accessed on Nov. 22, 2017

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