How do you respond when your spouse files a sole application for divorce? Your first option is to simply take no action. Your lack of action will express your consent and allow the divorce to proceed. Your second option is to contest the application. You should choose the second option if you disagree with something stated in the divorce papers your spouse filed or you do not want to agree to divorce your spouse at this time.
Determining what papers need to be filed and when they need to be filed can be complicated. There are a lot of questions that naturally surface as you work your way through the divorce process. It is in your best interest to consult with a divorce attorney to make sure you understand the process and do not miss steps that could interfere with a favorable outcome or unnecessarily extend the time it takes to finalize the divorce.
If you are concerned about a favorable outcome in regards to child custody, spousal and child support, or the division of assets, the advice and guidance of an experienced lawyer is essential.
You Have Been Served
You have 30 days to file a Response to Family Claim once you have been served with divorce papers. If you agree with the claim and want the divorce to proceed as filed, then you do not have to file anything at this time. If you want to dispute something in the claim, you must file the Response to Family Claim in the court registry.
If you do not respond to the divorce papers within 30 days, the court will issue a Divorce Order and you will be served again. You will have 31 days from the time the judge signs the Divorce Order to file an appeal. If you do not file an appeal, then you will be officially divorced 31 days after the judge signs the order.
Keep these cut-off times in mind, because your consent is assumed if you do not file the appropriate claim within those time frames. Do not delay your response. If you disagree with something in your spouse’s claim, it is your responsibility to let the court know of your disagreement within a reasonable amount of time.
Living Apart and the Date of Separation
If your spouse claimed that you have been living separate for a year or longer and that is untrue, you can challenge that claim. You will need to provide proof that you have lived together within the last year. Your sworn statement to the facts can serve as evidence, but your case will be further proven by photographs dated within the last year, bills in both of your names, and/or statements provided by others who know about your relationship.
If you know that you have been separated for a year or longer but dispute the date of separation your spouse listed on the claim, you can file documentation to prove your date of separation. The courts have heard cases where the parties gave dates of separation a decade apart, so do not hesitate to file this type of dispute.
Why does the separation date matter? It matters because the court uses this date when determining how assets are distributed and what property is worth at the time of separation. If you know the separation date is different than presented in your spouse’s claim, it is your job to gather evidence and file the dispute to set the record straight.
Adultery and Cruelty
In the case that your spouse files for divorce citing adultery and/or cruelty on your part, you will definitely want to file a dispute. Your spouse will have filed their evidence of adultery and/or cruelty, and you will need to file your own documentation to prove the claim is not true. It will be up to the court to determine which set of evidence is believed.
There are many issues that can be disputed over the course of a divorce, and some are rather complicated. For instance, many disputes are filed over child support or child access rights. If these issues arise in your divorce you have several options:
- Ask the court to settle the issues after you both present evidence to prove your cases.
- Ask the court to allow you and your spouse to work the issues out in mediation
- Ask the court to issue family justice counseling
- Make use of collaborative family law strategies to solve the issue
Your lawyer will help you understand the process behind all of these mediation strategies so you can determine what will work best in your situation. If you don’t think you and your spouse can come to an agreement with the help of professionals, you will have to let the court hear the evidence on both sides and make a decision for you.