What If One Of Us Doesn't Show Up To The Divorce Hearing?
The first thing you should do when filing or being served a Complaint of Divorce is to seek the advice of an attorney in your state. If your spouse has filed for a dissolution of your marriage, you must be served with a copy of their Complaint along with a Summons. The requirement of both documents will vary from state to state, some states only require the Complaint of Divorce, however, in the State of New York, both documents must be served to the defendant.
If the divorce is contested, both parties will be summoned to the court through the Complaint and will come before a judge who must determine the details and finalization of the divorce. If the party who filed the petition does not appear in court for the initial hearing, the judge can either consider a reschedule – if there are extenuating circumstances that satisfy their requirement, or they will dismiss the Complaint of Divorce.
If you receive a Summons, it will advise you how long you have, to file a formal Answer to the Complaint. If you don’t respond to the Summons at all, you will waive all of your rights to contest the divorce and lose the right to negotiate any terms in the divorce. Refusal to respond to the Divorce Complaint will terminate any rights including the rights to custody, visitation, property disposition and other important matters under the law.
Some states allow twenty days from the time the Divorce Complaint is filed until the expiration of when a defendant can respond. Most states allow thirty days for a defendant to respond if the defendant resides out of state. Remember that even if you contest the Complaint, it does not mean the divorce will not proceed.
In most cases, if the divorce is agreed upon by both parties and there is nothing to contest, both in agreement of the terms of their divorce, one of them might wish not to make a court appearance and one party can proceed with the uncontested divorce.
If one spouse fails to appear at the initial court hearing for any reason other than an amicable agreement with no contest, the one party may request that the judge grant a default judgment of divorce. This means the other party has given up all rights to protest or negotiate the divorce.
If you have children together or if there is property or financial obligations, it is strongly advised that each party attend their divorce proceeding to ensure they are exercising their rights.
The requirement that both parties appear in court for the hearing varies from state to state. Be prepared to show up even if you know there is a chance the other party won’t, whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant. Less than ten percent of divorce cases go to trial and most divorces can be negotiated through both party’s attorneys.
Your attorney will know best how to handle your particular Divorce Complaint by knowing and understand all the facts and details as well as understanding the law and how to interpret it.