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How and why do I answer a divorce petition?

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Even if you are expecting it, being served with divorce papers is rarely a pleasant experience. This is especially true if a divorce service is confusing or complicated. A few pointers about the important contents of a petition can help ease tensions and help you answer it properly.

  • What's the purpose of answering a petition?

The main reason to answer a divorce petition is to acknowledge its receipt. It also gives an opportunity to the person being sued for divorce to state his or her position on the division of property and assets, as well as preferences of child support and custody.

  • What happens if a petition goes unanswered?

If a person fails to respond to a petition for divorce or dissolution of a marriage, the sued spouse risks a default judgement against him or her. A default ends the sued person's right to dispute or argue any part of the divorce.

  • What are the consequences of a default judgement?

A spouse with a default against him or her may lose child custody rights or any marital property or assets ruled upon by the court.

  • Can a default judgement be reversed?

A spouse may request a default be set aside, or removed, which would restart a period in which the divorce and any property or custody arrangements could be contested. This removal would require a proper legal reason, such as service to the wrong address.

An attorney may help a person sued for divorce respond to the petition or ask that a default judgement be set aside. These matters are often better resolved when spouses have legal representation.

Source: FindLaw, "Answering the Divorce/Dissolution Petition," accessed Jan. 12, 2018

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