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–which is required if you are asking the court for something not contained in the Petition.
When is a Petition Uncontested?
A Petition is uncontested when you or your spouse file an answer that agrees with all the allegations contained in the Petition. Consequently, there are no issues for a court to resolve. If this is the case, and both parties have complied with mandatory disclosure and filed all of the required papers, 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 you or your spouse file an answer which disagrees with or denies anything in the Petition. The Court will most likely send the parties to mediation to attempt to work out the issues. Either party may file a Notice for Trial, after you have complied with mandatory disclosure and filed all of the required papers, if you are unable to settle the disputed issues. Some circuits may require the completion of mediation before a final hearing may be set. You should contact the clerk, family law intake staff, or judicial assistant for instructions on how to set your case for trial (final hearing).
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 contained in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Depending on the circumstances, a party may request the Court to set aside the default–but 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.
If you have questions about the divorce process, it’s best to ask a qualified family attorney. 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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