When filing for divorce in California, you may be facing a lot of unknowns. This can be especially true when you are unsure if your ex will participate in the case. In some instances, a person filing for a California divorce can get what is known as a default judgment. A default judgment occurs when the other party does not formally answer after being served with a legal case. If you have a pending California divorce case, you may be wondering: Can you get a default divorce in California?
Getting a California Default Divorce
The Default Process
To initiate your California divorce, you will file a Petition and Summons. These are legal pleadings that will be served on your ex. Once your ex is served (formally given the documents), you will file a proof of service document with the court. After service, your ex will have 30 days to file a Response or responsive pleadings with the court.
If your ex-files a Response, they will be entitled to participate and make arguments for what they want in the divorce case. By contrast, if after 30 days, your ex does not file a Response to your Summons and Petition, and there is not an agreement between you, this is considered a “true default.”
With a true default, your ex will have given up their rights to have a say in the divorce case, and you can move forward with requesting a default divorce judgment. Requesting default divorce judgment involves filing certain forms with the court and requesting that the court divide your property and debt as set out in your petition. You will also include a request for spousal maintenance if applicable. If you have minor children, you will file additional documents regarding your child support, custody, and visitation terms.
Once you and your attorney have prepared and reviewed all of the necessary divorce documents, they will be presented to the judge. If the court finds that everything is in order, the judge can sign the judgment granting your requested terms without your spouse’s participation.
The Accuracy of Your Divorce Petition
It’s important to know that the court cannot grant anything you have not requested in your Petition. Therefore, you need to ensure all of your requested relief is clearly and accurately conveyed in your filed document. Additionally, you will need to provide the right forms and data to the court in order to obtain a default judgment. California divorce involves complex issues and terms, and you will want to work with an experienced California divorce attorney to help ensure that you present the correct information and documents to the court.
Service of Your Divorce Summons and Petition
Although this process may sound simple, default divorces can be quite complex. Additionally, just because your ex doesn’t respond to your Summons and Petition, that does not automatically mean you will get a default judgment. A defect in your Petition could result in the judge refusing to grant the default and you having to amend your pleading. In that case, you would have to serve your ex all over again. Service can also create complications. If a party seeking a default divorce cannot establish that there was proper service, the court will not grant a default judgment.
What if I Can’t Locate My Ex for Service?
You may be in a situation where you cannot locate your ex to serve them with divorce documents. That can be a frustrating situation. However, there are ways to get permission from the court to serve an absent party. You may be able to serve by publication (posting notice in a newspaper) or through another alternate means. If you are having trouble locating your ex, you should consult with an experienced California divorce attorney. Your counsel can help you evaluate your situation and identify ways to properly serve your ex so you can move forward with your case.
Contact a California Divorce Attorney
Getting a default judgment may be possible during your California divorce. The best way to determine your divorce options is by working with an experienced California divorce attorney.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced California separation and divorce attorneys who can help you understand your options regarding default divorce in California divorce. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.