To say you’ve had it, would be an understatement. After all, it’s not like your spouse pays attention to paying bills on time. Or, shows up for important events. It isn’t a surprise at all. So, what happens if your spouse ignores your divorce complaint?
When it comes to stressful situations, divorce only follows only one other major life event. No doubt that the deaths of a spouse or child represent the most difficult circumstances. In fact, a rating system developed by scientists assigned different life events values. According to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, death came in at 100. Divorce was next with an assessed value of 73.
When your spouse fails to respond to your divorce complaint, you can look at it from a couple of perspectives. On the one hand, you might decide that he or she will have no input when it comes to decisions about equitable distribution or support payments. On the other, you may wonder what happens next.
Service of the Divorce Complaint
In the first place, it helps to understand the steps involved in ending a marriage. In New Jersey, there’s no need to prove fault in seeking a divorce. (That said, some individuals prefer to file for cause and have the right to do so.)
Once the divorce complaint is filed, your attorney will draft a Summons. The summons is a document that informs the other party there is a pending legal action. Service of the summons needs to be done within 10 days after the divorce complaint is filed. Service may be made through the post office. However, there’s an issue if your spouse doesn’t respond.
Alternatively, both documents should be personally served on the defendant by either the sheriff or a private process server. An experienced family law attorney will help determine the most cost-effective and efficient means of ensuring your spouse acknowledges receipt of the documents.
The latter is critical. If you can’t show proof that your spouse was served with divorce papers, it’s difficult to move to the next step. By law, he or she is expected to answer the divorce complaint within 35 days of service.
Notably, your spouse – the defendant – must not only file an answer to your complaint. According to New Jersey court rules, a Case Information Statement (CIS) must also be included with the answer. This provides critical information concerning asset information.
If your spouse neglects to file an answer after proper service, your attorney will most likely motion the court for a default judgment. This means that only the documentation you submitted will be considered by the judge. Your spouse will not have the opportunity to “debate” issues about equitable distribution, child support, or spousal support. The request for the default judgment must be done within sixty days after the defendant’s time to answer has expired.