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I Have Been Served. What Happens If I Don't Respond?

Learn More About The Divorce Process

Do I have to Respond to the Divorce Complaint?

As divorce attorneys, we are often asked by individuals what would happen if they simply did not respond to the divorce or child support modification petition they have been served with. Although we are commonly asked this question, we rarely ever respond. Why? Because instead, we advise that failure to respond is simply not an option. Even though you may be opposed to the divorce or modification action that has been filed, failing to respond will not make the matter disappear. In fact, failing to respond only has the potential to make matters worse. However, for those who insist upon learning what would happen should they decide not to respond to the petition that has been filed against them, the consequences of such an action (or lack thereof) is discussed below.

In Georgia, if you have been served with a Complaint or Petition for Divorce or any other domestic relations action, you have 30 days in which to respond. This 30 day period begins to run beginning on the day you are served, not the date that your spouse or the opposing party filed the action.

If you Fail to Respond, They Could Have Trial Without You

If you fail to respond to the petition by filing an Answer within the 30 day period, you will waive your right to receive any future notices regarding the final trial in the matter, including the time and place of the trial, the entry of judgment, and any notification of the court's decision. See O.C.G.A. §§ 9-11-5(a), 15-6-21(c) and 5-5-25. This is a serious penalty, because failing to file an answer could lead to a judgment being entered in your case without your knowledge. Additionally, once a judgment has been entered, it may be difficult or even impossible for you to reopen the case, or to have this judgment set aside after the fact. Hill v. Hill, 234 Ga. 836 (1975).

What If I'm Already Beyond 30 Days? Should I Still File?

If you have been served with a Petition for Divorce or any other action concerning alimony, you may still file an Answer in your matter even if you do not met the 30 day deadline. In fact, you may file an Answer at any time before the court enters a final judgment in your matter. See Todd v. Todd, 231 Ga. 647 (1974). Unlike in other civil cases, there is no default divorce in Georgia. O.C.G.A. 19-5-8. What this means is that failing to respond to your spouse's petition for divorce does not mean that your spouse's petition will automatically be granted. But, if you are not present at the final hearing in your divorce matter because you waived your right to trial notices due to your failure to respond to the petition, it is very unlikely that the result will be in your favor.

With all of the above caveats in mind, if you have been served with a Petition for Divorce or any other family law matter here in Georgia, please respond appropriately. If you are unsure how to respond, contact your Atlanta Divorce Team. We are here to help.

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