Divorce Summons Served: What Happens If I Do not Respond?

The consequences of failing to respond in any way to a complaint for divorce will depend on the Rules of Court or civil procedure for that particular State.  In most States if the defendant fails to respond to or defend a properly filed and correctly served civil complaint against him after a prescribed amount of time either the Clerk of Court or the Court will enter a default judgment against the defendant and in favor of the plaintiff without consideration of the merits of the claims.  If plaintiff has made a claim in the complaint for a “sum certain” or a discernable amount of damages or relief and the defendant is not a minor or incompetent then a default judgment shall enter for that amount against the defendant for failure to appear.  No default judgment shall enter without an affidavit made by any competent individual stating that the defendant is not a member of the military service in compliance with the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act.  This element is intended to protect those in active military duty from being exploited by a plaintiff seeking a fast default judgment against a member of the military serving overseas who might be unable to properly respond to a civil complaint on a timely basis.

Default Judgment

  • Good Points - In some cases a default judgment of divorce is just what the couple is looking to create.  It is a cheap and fast way to get a judgment of divorce without the fuss and notoriety of a trial or similar divorce related requirements.  If the couple has drafted the complaint in a manner that both can agree will serve their purposes orchestrating a default judgment for a quick divorce might be a great option. 

  • Bad Points - The complaint defendant wants to contest the claims made in the complaint for divorce or contest the jurisdiction of the court over the marriage and the defendant then a default judgment is bad news.  There is a method available to request that the court vacate the default judgment but it is not be right and the court must find that “good cause” exists to vacate the default.  A default judgment effectively takes away all of the defendant’s rights to be heard in opposition on the merits of the complaint.

Getting Legal Help

If you have received notice that a default judgment has entered against you it would be important to contact a divorce lawyer as soon as possible to access assistance with filing a motion to vacate the default or any other appropriate action necessary in view of the circumstances.

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