Every divorce case works differently. While California only has one set of grounds for divorce under its no-fault divorce rules, every couple has different goals and views on the divorce. If you were served with divorce papers and do not want to get divorced or refuse to sign a divorce agreement, you could still be divorced by default.

In any divorce case, it is important to talk to an attorney and respond to court filings promptly. The Ventura divorce lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth will discuss how a default divorce works and what you can do to avoid defaulting on divorce proceedings. For a free consultation on your divorce case, contact our law offices today.

When is a Divorce a “Default Divorce” in CA?

The process for divorce can be quite different depending on the amount of control you want to exert over your case. In some cases, you may fully control most aspects of the divorce by forming your own divorce agreement with your spouse instead of relying on the court’s rulings. A “default” divorce occurs when you simply ignore the proceedings and let the divorce happen without any input.

When filing for divorce, one party usually files with the court. This party, the “petitioner,” is similar to the “plaintiff” in other civil lawsuits. When someone files divorce papers, they must serve the other party, the “respondent,” who is similar to a “defendant.” This service requires following certain procedural rules to make sure it is delivered to the right address in the right way to give the respondent notice of the divorce hearing and filings.

Once you receive divorce papers, you have a few options. First, you can do what many couples do and discuss the case, coming to an agreement with the petitioner. Divorce agreements account for a large number of divorces in California and often allow the parties more control over asset division, child custody agreements, child support, and other issues related to the divorce.

Alternatively, you can let the court handle things. You can go to court with your lawyer and argue the case in front of the judge and allow them to make decisions instead of making an agreement. Some parties may prefer this, especially if they are unable to come to an agreement with their spouse or if things would be particularly heated in private negotiations.

Another choice you have is to simply let the divorce happen. In an “uncontested” divorce, the respondent agrees to whatever terms the petitioner wants and simply allows the divorce to go through without making demands. This is a common move in many divorce cases where there are few issues to discuss, such as marriages without children or high-value shared assets to consider.

The last choice you have is to refuse to participate in the divorce. If you never respond to the divorce petition, your spouse can move ahead without you and get the divorce finalized without your participation. However, this means you have no say in anything that happens.

Is It Bad to Default in Divorce Proceedings?

If you are in a place where you cannot handle divorce proceedings, you may want to simply ignore the process. However, ignoring the divorce does not make the problem go away and often puts you in a bad spot, financially. Even if you do not want to face divorce, it is important to talk to an attorney about your case, respond to the petition, and involve yourself in the divorce process.

The respondent defaults in a divorce case by failing to respond to the petition by the deadline. If they have proper service and notification of the proceedings, but they do not respond, the court will move ahead without them. After that point, the respondent is not permitted to make any arguments or petition the court regarding the terms of the divorce. They will simply be excluded from the case, and the petitioner will essentially get whatever they want.

While there may be some options to file for reconsideration on the default judgment or appeal the case if the service or notice was bad, you usually have no right to step back into the divorce case after defaulting. Because of this, it is vital to answer the petition if your spouse files for divorce.

If you are involved in the process, you may be able to give your input on issues of asset division, challenge child custody decisions, and argue for spousal support changes. If you default, you will be unable to participate in these decisions because you did not take up the opportunity when it was given to you. That means you could lose assets in the divorce, risk losing financial stability, and have your life taken apart without your input.

It is always better to participate silently in an uncontested divorce or actively work toward your goals in a divorce rather than defaulting. Call a lawyer for help with your divorce case.

California Divorce Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you are considering filing for divorce or divorce has been filed against you, you should seek assistance from an experienced Santa Barbara divorce lawyer or Ventura family lawyer. The divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth can fight to protect your rights and interests in your divorce case, but only if you act quickly and avoid defaulting by letting the deadline expire. For a free consultation on your case, call our lawyers today at (805) 643-5555.