After that is sent to the court a petition for divorce/dissolution, the petitioner (usually through his lawyer) makes sure that the petition is “served” (delivered legally) to your spouse. The spouse who is “served” the petition for divorce/dissolution is called the “respondent” or “defendant”. He or she must respond to (“answer”) to the petition within a certain period (usually three weeks).
It may help you see the divorce process as a lawsuit (which is technically). So, when you receive a divorce petition/dissolution it is as if what is demanded and therefore must respond to the allegations in the dissolution within a short time period (usually 30 days), or forfeit its right to express its position on issues such as the division of property and custody of children.
What is the answer?
In a nutshell, the response ensures that the petition for divorce/dissolution is received and set forth the agreement or disagreement with this request.
More specifically, the answer of the defendant must clearly establish your position on the statements and proposals that your spouse made in the petition for divorce/dissolution; this includes information about the couple and the marriage, the application of the child custody, division of property, and support. Through a printed form that facilitates the court, often you can write if it is or not in accordance with the information and requirements contained in the request. Simply select the boxes that say “admitted” or “denied” in the sections listed correspond to the statements or demands made in the petition. These printed forms of response provide space for the respondent to explain and set their own requirements.
For example, assume that at Paragraph 3 of the petition for divorce/dissolution, the spouse claimant declares that only he or she has the right to the physical custody of the children. If the defendant believes that he or she (at least) have the right to shared custody, you can set the position (and the reasons on which it is based) clearly in your response. In many states, this would be done through a form already printed on it. Only you would pick the box that says “denied” after the text (also pre-printed) that says “the allegations in Paragraph 3 are admitted or denied”. The defendant then could support his denial with a brief statement in which you will make your own application for custody in the space that provides the shape.
Lack of response
If the petition for divorce/dissolution is properly delivered to the defendant and he or she does not answer, the court will assume that the respondent is in accordance with the terms of the divorce, the plaintiff established in the request. The court then put a label of “default” to the case, which means that it does not respond to the divorce petition, and that the right of reply of the respondent has been finished.
If placing the label of “default” to the case, it hurts the defendant, who did not respond to the divorce petition, he or she may request that the court remove the tag so that the divorce can be challenged. However, the defendant must show that there are legal reasons of weight to justify the request.
Samples of the forms: answer to petition for divorce/dissolution
The following samples are specific for each state, will give you an idea of what that is a response to the petition for divorce/dissolution, and what information it contains:
- Colorado: Response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage [PDF] (Courts of CO)
- Washington: Response to Petition (Domestic Relations) [PDF] (Courts of WA)
- West Virginia: a Response to the divorce petition [PDF] (Supreme Court of Appeals of WV).