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How to Get a Divorce by Default

Updated March 17, 2017

There are some cases in which a spouse is served with divorce papers and does not respond. This does not mean that the divorce cannot proceed, however. In many instances, the petitioning party will be awarded a divorce by default, based on the lack of response from the other spouse. To be awarded a divorce by default, you must meet certain requirements.

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  1. Contact your attorney. You likely will remain in contact with your divorce attorney throughout the divorce proceeding, but it is important to confirm that he has not received a response from your estranged spouse or your spouse's attorney.

  2. Provide proof that your spouse was served with the required divorce papers. Confirm the day that they were served and provide evidence that your spouse has not responded within the legal time frame. In many cases, a person has 20 to 30 days to respond to divorce papers. If your spouse cannot be located, provide proof that you followed the rules in your state for giving legal notice by publication. Include the dates and publications in which your notice appeared.

  3. Submit your petition for a default judgment to the appropriate court clerk. State filing laws vary, so your attorney will advise you where and when to submit your request. The court will set a hearing date.

  4. Attend your hearing. Present all of the evidence that you have gathered to show that your spouse did not respond to the divorce papers that you served. The judge at the hearing will determine whether to award you a divorce by default.

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