After the defendant spouse is served with the divorce complaint, he/she has two options: to respond or not. If the defendant spouse doesn’t contest the divorce, nothing more may be required of him/her. If the petitioning spouse is seeking child support, spousal support, property or the like, the court may require the defendant spouse appear for a hearing unless the parties have a written agreement about those issues.
In the case of an uncontested divorce where the defendant spouse doesn’t “appear” in the suit, a default divorce judgment may be entered after the petitioning spouse submits all required forms and paperwork to the court (generally, a copy of the final judgment must also be served on the defendant spouse).
If, on the other hand, the defendant spouse contests the divorce or the relief being sought, then it is his/her turn to act, in the form of an official response to the petition. The petition will generally set out a period of time in which the defendant spouse may serve an answer. This should almost invariably be done with the help of an attorney, because the fact that the defendant spouse is filing an answer means the divorce (or part of it) is contested. It is advisable to retain an attorney in a contested divorce, to represent the interests of the parties throughout the proceedings, which may become complicated or emotionally-charged.
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