Responding to a Petition for Divorce

If your spouse filed a petition for a divorce, you’ll need to move forward with the divorce procedure. Here’s how to respond to divorce papers in California.

First, decide whether you’ll respond to the petition for divorce. If you’re filing a contested or uncontested response, you’ll need to fill out, review, and file a Response (Form FL-120) within 30 days. Then, serve filed papers to your spouse and file your Proofs of Service.

After you’ve been served the divorce petition, you’ll have four options of how to proceed. Speak with an experienced divorce attorney to determine how you should respond to your spouse’s petition for divorce.

True Default

You have the option to not respond to the divorce papers. This is called “true default”. If you do not respond to the petition for divorce, you’re giving up your right to participate in divorce court. A judge will likely grant your spouse’s requested divorce terms. In a true default divorce, you’re essentially agreeing to the terms of divorce requested by your spouse, including settlements relating to property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support.

Default With Agreement

If you and your spouse have a written, notarized divorce agreement, you can choose not to file a divorce response. Divorce agreements should include detailed settlements and terms of property division, spousal support, child support, and child custody. In default with agreement, you and your spouse are agreeing to end your marriage on mutually satisfactory terms. However, if you choose not to file a response you forfeit your right to contest these divorce terms in court if ever need be.

Uncontested Response

In an uncontested response, spouses agree to divorce terms. An uncontested response is basically the same as default with agreement, except that the responding spouse maintains their right to contest or negotiate divorce terms in court if the agreement falls through. Spouses that file uncontested responses agree to divorce terms out of our, but protect their legal right to speak in court if needed. For more information on how to get an uncontested divorce in California, click here.

Contested Divorce

In a contested divorce, the responding spouse essentially disagrees with the terms of divorce requested by their spouse. After filing a contested response, you’ll need to meet your spouse in court, mediation, or arbitration to settle divorce terms. For more information on how to contest a divorce in California, click here.

1. Fill Out the Necessary Divorce Forms

If you choose to file either a contested or uncontested response, you’ll first need to fill out this form:

  • Response — Marriage\Domestic Partnership (Form FL-120)

If child support or custody terms need to be resolved, complete the following forms as well:

  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (Form FL-105/GC-120)
  • Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Application Attachment (Form FL-311)

2. Have the Forms Reviewed By An Attorney

These forms must be properly completed, so get them reviewed by an attorney before filing. Your attorney should have specialized experience in divorce or family law. To get in touch with a skilled divorce attorney that can review your forms and handle your divorce, contact us.

3. Make 2 Copies of Each Form

After an attorney has reviewed your response forms, make two copies of each form. The original set will be filed with the court, one set of copies are for you, and the other copied set is for your spouse.

4. File the Forms

Take the original set and copies of your response papers to your local court. Then, file the papers with the court clerk. The clerk will stamp all papers “FIled”, then keep the originals and hand you the copies. Your response must be filed within 30 days of being served the petition for divorce.

5. Serve the Forms

After you’ve filed the response papers, get someone over the age of 18 (not you) to serve these forms to your spouse. The process server can either serve them in person or by mail. These papers must be properly served to your spouse. For more information on how to serve divorce papers in California, click here.

6. File Your Proofs of Service

Once they’ve served your spouse, have the process server complete their proofs of service. If they served your spouse in person, make sure they complete this form:

If the process server served your spouse by mail, they should fill out this form:

Then, file the proofs of service with the same court you filed your response at.

FAQS About Responding to Divorce Papers

What happens if a spouse does not respond to divorce papers in California?

If you choose not to respond to your spouse’s petition for divorce, you’re waiving your right to speak about your divorce case in court. A judge will likely grant the divorce terms that your spouse requested; you’re choosing not to participate in the case.

How long after being served divorce papers do you have to respond in California?

In California, you must file your response within 30 days after being served the divorce petition.

Do I have to respond to divorce papers filed in California if I am not contesting?

If you’re not contesting the divorce terms, you have the option to default, meaning that you can choose not to respond to the petition for divorce. Or, you can file an uncontested response in which you agree to the divorce terms requested by your spouse.

Can I respond to divorce papers without an attorney?

While California courts do not require spouses to have a lawyer in order to respond to divorce papers, an experienced divorce attorney can make sure these forms are properly completed, filed, and served. You can hire an attorney just to review the divorce response and make sure it is correctly filled out.

Contact Us

If you’re responding to divorce papers and need an attorney, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the right lawyer for your unique legal situation. Your first consultation is free. We’re here to help you 24/7.