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What happens when a spouse doesn’t answer a divorce petition?

On Behalf of | May 10, 2021 | Divorce

How long a respondent has to respond to a divorce petition depends on which state they live in. South Carolina gives the respondent 30 days to respond. When your spouse doesn’t formally answer, they lose their rights to participate in the divorce process. In certain situations, your spouse could regain their rights if the judge grants them permission.

Personal delivery

Because of how serious it is to lose your right to participate in the divorce process, a process server won’t leave the Complaint for Divorce and Summons in your mailbox. They will repeatedly attempt to personally deliver the documents to your spouse to ensure that they received it.

When a process server is having a challenging time making contact with your spouse, they resort to giving the summons to a family member or someone they live with to hand over to your spouse. They could even post it publicly to reach the defendant. Thus, even if your spouse is trying to avoid the process, they cannot do so. Time will eventually run out, and it will be their loss if they don’t read the papers and answer.

Request for Default Judgment

If your spouse doesn’t answer the Complaint for Divorce and Summons within 30 days, you could request a default judgment. You must file this request with the court. A default judgment would give you everything that you asked for in the complaint.

Possibility for a response after 30 days

A spouse could answer the complaint for divorce late although this isn’t a good idea for them. If you’re the one receiving the summons, you need to respond within the timeframe to protect your interests. You can ask your spouse for an extension if you don’t think 30 days is enough time. If your spouse already filed a request for default judgment, you can still ask your spouse to set aside the default judgment so that you can respond. The respondent may also request the court itself to reject the request for default judgment. If the respondent has a good reason why they didn’t answer the complaint on time, the court will most likely allow them to respond.

You can follow through with divorcing your spouse even if they don’t respond to the divorce petition. They only have 30 days to answer in South Carolina, then you have the legal right to request a default judgment with the court if you think that is best in your situation.