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Why it's important to answer a divorce petition

After a person files a divorce petition with the court, the second party must answer that petition. The papers must be legally "served" to the second party, who then is recognized as having received them.

Usually, the person who has to respond to that petition is called the defendant or respondent. This person has around three weeks to respond to the petition as filed.

By all technicalities, a divorce is a lawsuit against one spouse by another. When you respond to a divorce petition, you're acknowledging that the other person wants to get a divorce and either agreeing or disagreeing with the petition. The petition will have information like whether or not the person wants child support, child custody and more. If you disagree, you can mark that on your response. If you agree, you can indicate that on your response as well.

If you don't answer a divorce petition, then the court will agree that the person wants to get the divorce. A default will be entered into the court, which means that the person who was meant to reply now agrees with everything said on the document and has no complaints.

You should always review and respond to a divorce petition. This is your chance to disagree with what the other party wants; you can say if you think you deserve child custody or if the other person's allegations are false. Your attorney can help you understand what your petition means and how to respond if you want to argue or negotiate parts of your divorce agreement.

Source: FindLaw, "Answering the Divorce/Dissolution Petition," accessed May 05, 2016

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