Whether you initiated a divorce action and properly served your spouse or you have been served with divorce papers yourself, the next step is the Answer.
The State of Florida requires an Answer to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to be filed within twenty (20) days after service.
What should the Answer include?
An answer to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage should admit or deny all the allegations contained in the Petition. An Answer can also include a Counterclaim. Counterclaims are filed when the responding party seeks relief from the Court for something not contained in the Petition.
When is a Petition Uncontested?
A Petition is uncontested when you or your agree to all the terms of the divorce. For example, an uncontested divorce would be one that the parties agree to how they will divide the marital assets and liabilities. If this is the case, either party may contact the clerk, family law intake staff, or judicial assistant to set a final hearing to finalize the divorce.
When is a Petition Contested?
A Petition is contested if the parties cannot agree to all of the terms. The Court will most likely send the parties to mediation to attempt to work out the issues. If the disputed issues are not resolved in mediation, then either party can request a trial. Some Courts require the completion of mediation before a final hearing may be set.
What are the Consequences if an Answer is not filed?
Failing to respond to the Petition within 20 days after service puts you at risk of a default. An entry of a default precludes a party from contesting the petitioner’s claim or allegations. Depending on the circumstances, a party may request the Court to set aside the default. Nevertheless, a default is something you want to avoid.
My spouse did not respond to the Petition. What can I do?
If after 20 days, your spouse has not filed an answer, you may file a Motion for Default. Then, if you have filed all of the required papers, you may contact the clerk, family law intake staff, or judicial assistant to set a final hearing. You must notify your spouse of the hearing.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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