There is a way to get a divorce even if your spouse does not want the divorce and does not answer your Complaint for Divorce. It is called an Uncontested Divorce. You would receive a Judgment of Divorce based on your spouses’ default. There are also circumstances where a divorcing couple is doing so amicably and already has a signed Settlement Agreement. They too may proceed by default. Therefore, any divorce that is uncontested, whether it is because your spouse refuses to participate in the process or you have reached an Agreement, may be finalized by way of default.
How does it work?
- Serve a copy of your filed Complaint for Divorce on your spouse.
- If after 35 days, your spouse does not formally respond to the Complaint, you may file a Request to Enter Default.
- The Court will then schedule your case for a Default Hearing. If there is no signed Settlement Agreement, then at least 20 days prior to the scheduled court date, you must file a Proposed Form of Final Judgment and serve it on your spouse.
Do I have to appear in court?
It depends. If you and your spouse do not have a Settlement Agreement, then yes, you do have to appear in Court for your scheduled hearing date. For those who have a signed Settlement Agreement, it depends on the county in which you live. If the Family Court in your county permits default divorces “on the papers” (without a hearing), it will simply be a matter of completing and submitting an additional Certification. If the Family Court in your county requires an appearance, regardless of whether you have a signed Agreement or not, then you must appear.
What can I expect at a default divorce hearing?
If you are the plaintiff and you do not have a signed Settlement Agreement, you will have to go through your Proposed Final Judgment, on the record. You will have to show the Judge that the relief you requested is reasonable in light of the specific facts of your case, assets accumulated, liabilities incurred and other factors. If the Judge finds that your requested relief is not reasonable, he or she may deny your request or significantly reduce it. If your spouse shows up that day, or you are the Defendant, you are not allowed to testify and/or present any evidence to rebut the Plaintiff’s testimony. The most you are permitted to do is cross examine the Plaintiff’s testimony. A default hearing is a serious matter and it is always best to be represented by counsel, whether you are the Plaintiff or Defendant.