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What Is a Default Divorce in California?

Rings with decree of divorce, closeup

Divorce is often a complex and emotionally charged process. However, not all divorces are created equal. In California, one type of divorce that can sometimes simplify proceedings is known as a “default divorce.” Understanding what a default divorce is and how it works can help you navigate your legal options more effectively. Whether you are the person filing for the divorce or the one responding to the complaint, understanding what a default divorce is and how it works is critical to protecting important rights to custody, support, and community property. For help with divorce proceedings in Los Angeles or the San Gabriel Valley, contact Blasser Law to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable Claremont family law attorney.

Default Divorce Explained

A default divorce occurs when one spouse files for divorce and the other spouse fails to respond within the required timeframe. In California, after the petitioner (the spouse initiating the divorce) serves the divorce papers on the respondent (the other spouse), the respondent has 30 days to file a response. If the respondent does not respond within this period, the petitioner can request the court to grant a default judgment. This means the court can proceed with the divorce without the respondent’s participation. As a consequence, the petitioner is likely to get everything they asked for in the complaint.

Conditions for a Default Divorce

To qualify as a default divorce in California, certain conditions must be met:

  1. Proper Service of Papers: The petitioner must serve the divorce papers to the respondent correctly. This ensures that the respondent is aware of the divorce proceedings. There are many ways to effect proper service, but they are all technical, and strict requirements must be followed.
  2. Lack of Response: The respondent must not file a response within the 30-day window.
  3. Petitioner’s Request for Default: The petitioner must file a request for a default judgment with the court after the response period has passed.

Steps in a Default Divorce

Step 1: Filing the Petition

The process begins when the petitioner files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Form FL-100) with the court. This form includes important information about the marriage, including property, debts, and any children involved.

Step 2: Serving the Papers

The petitioner must then serve the divorce papers to the respondent. Proper service can be done through a process server, sheriff, or any adult who is not a party to the case. Proof of service must be filed with the court.

Step 3: Waiting for a Response

After service, the respondent has 30 days to file a response. If the respondent does not respond within this period, the petitioner can proceed with a default divorce.

Step 4: Requesting a Default Judgment

If no response is filed, the petitioner can request a default judgment by filing a Request to Enter Default (Form FL-165). The petitioner may also need to file additional documents, such as a Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (Form FL-170), and a proposed Judgment (Form FL-180).

Step 5: Court Approval

Once the request for default is filed, the court will review the documents. If everything is in order, the judge will issue a default judgment, finalizing the divorce based on the petitioner’s terms.

Advantages of a Default Divorce

Default divorces can be advantageous in certain situations:

  1. Faster Resolution: Without the need for lengthy negotiations or court battles, a default divorce can be resolved more quickly.
  2. Cost-Effective: Fewer court appearances and legal fees can make a default divorce less expensive.
  3. Control Over Terms: The petitioner has more control over the terms of the divorce, including property division, spousal support, and child custody arrangements.

Potential Drawbacks

While default divorces can be beneficial, they also have potential drawbacks:

  1. Lack of Input: The respondent has no opportunity to present their side or contest the terms.
  2. Unfair Terms: If the petitioner requests terms that heavily favor them, the respondent could be at a significant disadvantage.
  3. Possible Set-Asides: The respondent may later request the court to set aside the default judgment if they can prove they were not properly served or had a valid reason for not responding.

Legal Guidance is Essential

Navigating a default divorce can be complex, and mistakes in the process can lead to delays or unfavorable outcomes. It is crucial to seek legal guidance to ensure all procedures are correctly followed and your rights are protected. At Blasser Law, we provide experienced legal counsel to help you through every step of your divorce, ensuring a fair and just resolution.

If you have questions about default divorces or any other family law matters, contact Blasser Law today. Our dedicated team is here to provide the support and expertise you need during this challenging time. For help with divorce and related issues or other family law matters in Los Angeles or the San Gabriel Valley, call Blasser Law today at 877-927-2181.

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