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What Happens if My Spouse Doesn’t Respond to the Petition for Divorce?

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The dissolution of a marital union is an emotionally challenging process. But when a marriage cannot be saved, divorce is inevitable. The divorce process starts by filling out multiple forms, one of which includes the petition for divorce. Divorce may proceed if the spouse opts to ignore the petition.

Fault-Based DivorcesWoman Signing Papers for Divorce

When contemplating divorce, it is necessary to determine what type of divorce will be filed. In Illinois, one of two types of divorces may be filed: no-fault or fault-based. A no-fault divorce may proceed without proof that the other spouse is the cause for the failure of the marriage.

A fault-based divorce requires one or more grounds for divorce, such as adultery, bigamy or impotence. A spouse who abandons the other spouse for a year or more is also grounds for divorce. A felony conviction and substance abuse are sufficient causes for a fault-based divorce.

Legitimate causes for a fault-based divorce in Illinois also include extreme mental or physical cruelty and attempting to inflict life-threatening harm on a spouse. An additional cause for a fault-based divorce includes infecting the spouse with a sexually transmitted disease.

What is a petition?

Upon knowing what type of divorce will be filed, the next step is to fill out the appropriate forms. Each county in Illinois requires different forms. In Cook County, for instance, required documents include a domestic relations cover sheet, petition, summons, and verification of allegations in the petition.

At a minimum, however, Illinois courts require that a petition for divorce be filed to initiate the divorce proceedings. The form is officially known as a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This legal document is a written request for divorce.

The individual filing for divorce is known as the petitioner or plaintiff. The spouse receiving the petition is called the respondent or defendant. Several methods may be used to serve the petition to the respondent, including via a private process server or the sheriff’s office.

What’s next once the petition is served?Berry-K-Tucker-&-Associates-Ltd-Oak-Lawn-IL

Once the petition is served, the respondent has 30 days to respond to the divorce petition. The spouse who receives the divorce petition is not required by law to respond and may voluntarily ignore the allegations outlined in the legal document.

A spouse may fail to respond to a divorce petition for a range of reasons. The serving spouse may be unable to locate the other spouse; the respondent is in jail; or, the spouse is deployed with the military. Or, the respondent simply has no major issues to argue about.

When a spouse encounters difficulties with serving divorce papers, it is important to consult the local county clerk for service rules and regulations. In most Illinois counties, however, the preferred method of serving divorce papers is via the sheriff’s service.

As mentioned, a respondent may choose to ignore the divorce petition. The spouse may have no valid reasons, such as children or marital property, to challenge the divorce proceedings. Without a response, the divorce case will continue without the respondent.

What is a default judgment?


A judge will consider the petitioning spouse’s arguments and come to a verdict without the respondent. The Illinois courts come to a default judgment. Without an answer to the petition, the judge will assume the respondent agrees with the terms of the divorce petition.

The divorce petition may include a range of specific terms made by the petitioning spouse. The non-petitioning spouse may be served with terms, such as property division, spousal support or maintenance, child support and custody, and any other demands, made by the petitioner.

In a default case, the petitioning spouse will appear in court. At the hearing, this spouse will provide evidence to the judge regarding what is stated in the divorce petition. The judge will issue a divorce order solely based on what the petitioning spouse says and proves in court.

Can a default divorce be challenged?

Although the non-petitioning spouse may choose to avoid answering the petition, it is rarely in his or her best interests. The judge’s decisions, for instance, may not be agreeable to the spouse. Opting to take a passive route could also cause the spouse to feel regrets later on.

Once the default judgment is made, the unresponsive spouse has the option to set aside the judgment. In this case, the non-petitioning spouse will be required to provide a valid reason for failing to answer the divorce petition. Normally, a time limit for providing an explanation will be in effect.

Challenging a default judgment also requires that the non-petitioning spouse fill out court forms that request the court to vacate the default judgment. The legal forms must be submitted within 30 days; otherwise, it will be more difficult to reverse the default judgment.

A spouse who does not respond to a petition for divorce relinquishes his or her right to have a say in the divorce case. An uncooperative spouse can make the process of divorce more taxing than necessary. However, a default divorce is available to petitioners who properly serve divorce papers.

Work with a Divorce Attorney

Young Man Speaking with Attorney

Proceeding with divorce when a spouse fails to answer requires the legal expertise of a divorce attorney. Qualified family law attorneys from Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. will help you prepare for the possibility of pursuing a default case when your spouse ignores a divorce petition.

Navigating divorce alone can be overwhelming. But with knowledgeable support from the legal team at Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd., your journey through and out of divorce will be less stressful. We represent you fairly in court and see that you receive the benefits to which you are entitled.

Whether your divorce case involves spousal maintenance, child support, division of property or post-decree issues, the divorce lawyers at Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. will assert your needs in court. We support Oak Lawn, IL and the surrounding areas throughout the legal process.

Call 708-425-9530 for an initial consultation.

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