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Responding to a Divorce Petition

Getting served with a Petition for Divorce is not a pleasant experience for anyone. Although you may have expected the Petition for some time, receiving and reading through the Petitioner’s requests can still be very frustrating and cumbersome. Fortunately, Responding to a divorce Petition will allow the responding party to shape his or her side of the story and make requests of his or her own.

The Purpose of the Response

A divorce response is used to address the merits of a family law Petition for dissolution. As stated above, it is also used to set forth the responding party’s position on the issues raised in the Petition, and also raise further issues and/or requests for relief.

Timing the Response

Ordinarily, the Response must be filed within thirty days of receiving a copy of the Petition. Failure to respond within the 30-day period puts the respondent in default. There are a few exceptions to responding within thirty days. First, the parties can agree to a later response time. The court may also order an additional thirty days to respond if the responding party shows “good cause.” Response time may also be extended under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. If a respondent is in active military service, the court must delay the proceedings for at least 90 days if a potential defense cannot be made without the Servicemember’s presence, or the Servicemember’s attorney has been unable to contact the respondent. Other exceptions may apply based on the circumstances.

What to Address in the Response

The responding party must acknowledge and respond to issues in the Petition raised by the initiating party, but may also bring up additional topics as well. First, the responding party will indicate if he or she has hired an attorney. Next, the responding party will also provide what he or she believes is the date of separation of the parties. This is important for the purpose of characterizing and dividing community or separate property, among other issues. If there are minor children from the marriage (including adopted children and children from prior relationships), the responding party will also provide their past residencies in order to ensure the San Diego court has proper jurisdiction over the children.

The responding party can also confirm or declare what they believe to be community or separate property, however a more detailed disclosure of these property items will be required as the case proceeds. The Respondent next has the opportunity to state what he or she requests in terms of child custody and support, visitation, spousal support and attorney fees and costs.

If you have been served with a Petition for divorce and would like to know more about how and when to respond, schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney at Cage & Miles, LLP. Our skilled attorneys can provide you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions and protect your rights.