Responding To Divorce Papers

What Should I Do if I Receive Divorce Papers?

Once served with divorce papers, it’s critical to examine the documents carefully. Thoroughly reviewing the Petition will assist you in accurately completing the Response, ensuring it reflects your true intentions and factual beliefs—not merely echoing the petitioner’s statements.

Furthermore, there will be very important information included amongst the papers  you receive. For example, you will receive the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders. These orders become enforceable the moment you are served and claiming ignorance of these orders will not work in court. 

What is Considered a Response to Divorce Papers?

Filing a Divorce Response means you are not initiating the divorce nor necessarily agreeing with the demands of your spouse. However, submitting a Response is crucial as it provides a platform for your voice to be heard in court and ensures your rights are protected.

The Response, legally known as Form FL-120, serves as your formal reply to the divorce petition. It mirrors the petition in terms of content but allows you the opportunity to confirm or dispute the details provided by your spouse. This includes updating or verifying personal details, residency, marriage and separation dates, and outlining your position on key divorce issues such as property distribution, custody, and support.

If children are involved, you’ll need to fill out a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Enforcement Act, which informs the court of the children’s living arrangements over the past five years and any existing legal matters that might affect custody decisions.

If there is something you would like the judge to decide right away, such as spousal support or child custody, you will need to request temporary orders which we will cover later. 

How Long Do I Have to Respond to Divorce Papers?

You have a strict 30-day period to file a response. If you fail to respond within this timeframe, the petitioner may proceed with the divorce proceedings without your contributions or objections.

Can I Stop a Divorce if I Don’t Agree With it?

No. California is what is commonly referred to as a “ no-fault” state. This means that a divorce can proceed with the petition of just one spouse. This act by the Petitioner signals a definitive intent to divorce. Consequently, regardless of your agreement, the Petitioner retains the exclusive right to pursue and finalize the divorce.

How Do I File My Response?

Your local family law courthouse is where your response should be filed. Given that locations and operational hours may vary, verifying your specific courthouse details is essential. Preparedness for potential wait times is also advised due to limited courthouse staffing.

At the courthouse, you’ll file the forms by giving the original and the 2 copies to the clerk. The court will keep the original and return the copies to you. One is for you, the other for your spouse.

Are There Fees Involved in Responding?

Yes, responding to a divorce incurs a mandatory filing fee, often referred to as a first appearance fee. Certain conditions, like disability or state aid, may qualify you for a waiver of these fees.

Serving Your Response

Since the Petitioner has initiated the case, you don’t need a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt. Therefore, serving them by mail is typically sufficient. However, you can serve them in person or with an acknowledgment, but it is unnecessary. 

Whether the service is done personally, by mail with acknowledgement, or simply by mail, the person serving the documents must be over 18 and not involved in the divorce. So, another adult has to mail the documents on your behalf.

Your server should mail a copy of your response as well any other papers you filed (except any fee waivers) to the petitioners lawyer if they have representation or directly to the petitioner if not. Tell your server to note the date they mailed the papers. Your server needs this date to fill out the Proof of Service form.

How Will The Court Know I Responded to the Divorce Papers?

Have your server complete the Proof of Service form, ideally using the Proof of Service by Mail (form FL-335). You can start by filling in the top part of the form with your case and court information. Then, your server can add details about the manner, timing, and location of the mailing. Once completed, the server must sign and date the form. After this, make a copy of your Proof of Service form and file both the original and the copy at the court where you filed your papers. The court will stamp the copy and return it to you; keep this stamped copy for your records.

Contact Our Divorce Attorney Today

If you need a divorce attorney in Orange County, Los Angeles, or Ventura County, contact us today. We are here to offer you knowledgeable, compassionate, and assertive legal assistance in all aspects of family law.

Responding to divorce papers effectively is a critical step in the divorce process that sets the stage for your legal and personal outcomes. By carefully reviewing the documents, filing a detailed and truthful response, and adhering to the required timelines, you can ensure that your interests are well-represented in court. As you move forward, it’s important to prepare for the next pivotal aspect of divorce proceedings: filing and responding to temporary orders. This upcoming section will guide you through the complexities of securing temporary orders that address immediate needs such as child custody, spousal support, and asset management, ensuring you are protected during the interim period before final judgments are made.


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