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If you have divorce questions

Failure to Respond to Complaint

What if I don’t Respond to the Complaint for Divorce?

As discussed in our section "Answer" - upon being served with a complaint and summons for divorce, a defendant has 30 days in which to respond by filing an Answer. Thus, it is important for a defendant to act quickly in retaining an attorney, or gathering the necessary information to submit an answer on his/her behalf to meet this 30 day deadline. What happens if you or your spouse do not respond to the divorce papers by the 30 day deadline? Failure to respond to a divorce complaint will lead to some serious consequences. For example, you could lose the right to notices of a hearing or trial and a verdict could be rendered without you. Further, you could also end up waiving several important defenses.

Consequences of Not Responding to the Divorce Petition

Waiving Your Right to Notice

If a defendant fails to file an answer or other defensive pleadings within 30 days of being served with the complaint, he/she waives all future notices regarding the trial of the case, including the time and place of the trial, the entry of judgment, and any notification of the decision. Therefore, it is important for a defendant to file defensive pleadings because failure to do so may lead to a judgment being entered without their knowledge. Additionally, it may be difficult or even impossible for the defendant to reopen the case or to have this judgment set aside after the fact.

Waiving Defenses

Another reason that it is essential to file an answer in a divorce action is that the defenses of insufficient service, lack of personal jurisdiction, and improper venue, must be raised before or at the time of pleading. If these defenses are not raised prior to or at the time of pleading, these defenses will be waived. Filing an answer to a claim of divorce or alimony and responding to the allegations asserted in the action generally waives all defects in the service of process. Thus, it is important to assert these defenses in the answer or prior to submitting an answer in the case. Contact an attorney specializing in family law or divorce to discuss whether these defenses would be appropriate in your case.

If you Fail to Answer, you still have Rights

Failing to respond to the divorce complaint will result in consequences. However, even though a defendant may waive the right to receive notices concerning the case if he/she fails to answer within the mandated time period, a defendant's right to demand a jury trial or to fully defend against the plaintiff's claims for divorce or alimony are not waived. The defendant may submit defensive pleadings, including counterclaims, at any time prior to the entry of a final judgment. This is possible because in Georgia a default judgment will not be granted in a divorce action because Georgia's public policy favors the continuation of marriage.

Additional Resources 

Feel free to read more about related topics. You've got questions, Meriwether & Tharp is here with the answers you need. 
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