Family Matters.
When It Really Matters.

What is at risk if someone ignores divorce papers?

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2024 | Divorce

Encountering a process server with divorce paperwork can be a shocking moment. Even those who have been through rough patches in their marriages might believe they still have time to work on the relationship.

However, sometimes one spouse makes the unilateral decision that the marriage is no longer worth repairing. Some people intentionally serve their spouses in public locations, like at the office or at a family get-together. Someone who didn’t expect divorce paperwork might hope to talk things through with their spouse. It is common for people to feel depressed and shocked, especially if they return home to discover their spouse has left.

Some people react to unexpected service with divorce paperwork by failing to take any action whatsoever. They might let their emotions dictate their response. Avoiding or ignoring the issue may be the most comfortable solution initially, but it can put someone at a significant disadvantage during their divorce process.

Spouses only have a few weeks to respond

There are some people who might attempt to deny a spouse a divorce even when they have valid grounds, like marital abuse, for filing the paperwork. As a no-fault state, California does not require that the person filing the divorce paperwork prove anything about the marriage. Instead, they simply need to follow certain procedures. Their spouse cannot force them to stay married if they follow the right steps.

Those procedures include proposing divorce terms in the initial paperwork and serving their spouse in accordance with California law. After the service occurs, the countdown begins. The non-filing spouse typically only has 30 days to respond to the initial filing. They can contest the property division and custody terms proposed by their spouse. The failure to do so might leave someone without much say in the final terms of the divorce.

Someone who files divorce paperwork can request a divorce by default if their spouse does not respond to the service within 30 days. Therefore, someone served with divorce paperwork needs to act quickly to assert themselves. They likely need to discuss their options and learn about the law before countering the terms proposed by their spouse.

A decision to ignore divorce paperwork typically leaves someone in a very unfavorable position. Those who understand the law can better handle the surprising experience of a spouse serving them with divorce paperwork.