California Divorce Papers - What to Do If You've Been Served

Man served with California divorce SummonsBeing served with California divorce papers can put most people in a panic. Maybe you already knew your marriage was headed for the rocks, or maybe you thought everything was fine. Either way, it's an unpleasant experience. If this has happened to you this article will help you get up to speed fast.

The first thing you need to know is that you only have 30 days to respond if you want to participate in the divorce, unless you can reason with your spouse and get him or her to agree in writing differently.

When you are served with California divorce papers, what you receive are two official documents: the Summons (California divorce form FL-110) and a copy of the Petition (California divorce form FL-100).

At this point, you have two possible courses of action:

1) If you and your spouse have already agreed to an uncontested divorce, or if you just don't care, you can do nothing. In this case, as stated on Form FL-110, the court will act on the Petition filed by your spouse. The court will make orders affecting your marriage or domestic partnership, property, and children. This is a default divorce case.

You should only do a default divorce if you have little property or debts, no children, and no need for spousal or partner support.

According to California family law, Section 2335.5, if the Judgment is to be entered by default, your spouse, as the Petitioner, will have to provide the court clerk with a stamped envelope addressed to you so the clerk can send you a copy of the request to enter the default.

2) If you care what happens in your divorce you must file a Response (Form FL-120, or FL-123 for a domestic partnership). If you file a Response, you either have to complete your divorce by a written agreement between you and your spouse (a Settlement Agreement, which becomes your Judgment), or by taking your case to court and letting a judge (who knows nothing about you) decide the issues you can't settle.

I hope it is obvious to you that it's in your best interest to do everything you can to work out a Settlement Agreement if you file a Response, even if talking with your spouse is the last thing you want to do. Once you've filed your California divorce papers, it comes down to either working things out between you or facing a potentially very expensive court battle.

The Response (FL-120 or FL-123)

By filing this form, you let everyone know that you have officially joined the case. Depending on how you fill it out, it might also give notice that you want some separate property confirmed to you, or have a different view of the basic facts or the ultimate outcome.

Once the Response is filed and served, you and the Petitioner are exact equals in the legal proceedings and have equal ability to go ahead with any legal procedure.

As noted above, once you are served with the Petition, you have 30 days to file your Response. However, if Petitioner sends you a letter stating that you can have a specific amount of extra time, or better, that he/she will not proceed in the case without giving you 30 days' written notice to respond, then you can put off filing the Response and concentrate on getting an agreement worked out. This is the best scenario.

Before filing your Response, study the California divorce papers you received. Pay attention to the restraining orders on the 2nd page of the Summons and check every fact stated on the Petition. You get to state your version of the facts in your Response.

You will need to prepare the original and three copies of your California divorce papers.

If you want to learn how you can get the rest of the details go to California Divorce Papers.

Ed Sherman is the author of How to Do Your Own Divorce in California and the divorce expert attorney famous for founding Nolo Press and the self-help law movement. Since 1971, his books and software have saved divorcing couples BILLIONS of dollars in legal fees. He owns, where he provides comprehensive advice and tips on how to get the best possible California divorce.




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