Meriwether & Tharp, LLC
Meriwether & Tharp, LLC 1545 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 300 Varied
If you have divorce questions

Responsive pleading required to get notice of final divorce hearing

In divorce and other family law cases, it is very important to follow the letter of the law in filing pleadings with the court so that you do not miss out on any hearings or other notices. In a recent case, the husband filed a Complaint for Divorce and the wife, who had no attorney at the time, acknowledged service of the Complaint, but did not file an Answer or any other responsive pleading. Ellis v. Ellis, 286 Ga. 625 (2010). Shortly thereafter, the wife retained an attorney who filed an entry of appearance, but did not file any responsive pleading on the wife’s behalf. Id. The final hearing, of which the husband’s attorney provided notice to the wife’s attorney, was rescheduled, and the husband’s attorney agreed to inform the wife’s attorney of the rescheduled date for the final hearing. Id. The husband subsequently retained a new attorney who moved the trial court to enter a final judgment of divorce on the pleadings, without holding a final hearing. Id. After the trial court granted the husband’s motion and entered a final judgment of divorce, the wife filed a notice for new trial, alleging an agreement by the husband’s former attorney to provide notice of a final hearing date. Id. at 626. The superior court refused to grant wife a new trial, holding that the wife waived notice by failing to file any responsive pleading and any alleged agreement did not change this fact. Id.

Unfortunately for the wife, the Supreme Court of Georgia agreed with the superior court, as Georgia law is clear on this matter. OCGA §9-11-5(a) states: [T]he failure of a party to file pleadings in an action shall be deemed to be a waiver by him or her of all notices, including notices of time and place of trial and entry of judgment, and all service in the action, except service of pleadings asserting new or additional claims for relief. . . .”

Thus, in any divorce case, it is prudent to use the motto “better safe than sorry” so that you do not end up like the wife in this case. Even if you think you have an agreement with your spouse or his/her attorney, it is best to file all pleadings necessary with the court and look out for yourself.

Back to Blog