Options to Respond

If you have been served with a summons and a petition, you are the respondent in a court case for divorce or legal separation.


When you are served, read the papers you have received carefully. The Petition (Form FL-100 or Form FL-103) tells you what the petitioner (your spouse or domestic partner) is asking for. The Summons (Family Law) (Form FL-110) gives you important information about your rights and the divorce or separation process. It contains some standard restraining orders limiting what you can do with your property, money, and other assets or debts. It also prohibits you or your spouse or partner from moving out of state with your children from your marriage or partnership, and from applying for a new or replacement passport for any of your children together, without the prior written consent of the other or a court order. READ this form carefully!!

Once you are served, you have several options:

  1. You can do nothing — which means that whatever your spouse or domestic partner is asking for in the Petition will probably be granted. The judge will base his or her decision about property, support, and custody and visitation (if you have children together) only on what your spouse or domestic partner has requested in the Petition.

    • This situation is called a “true default” because you are “defaulting” by not responding and are not involved at all.
    • In a “true default” you are giving up your right to participate in the case.
    • Click to learn more about default or uncontested cases.

  2. You can do nothing because you have a written notarized agreement with your spouse or domestic partner where you both agree to end your marriage or domestic partnership. And you agree about other things like the division of your property and your debt, spousal or partner support, and, if you have children together, child support and custody and visitation orders.

    • In this case, you also “default” because you are not filing a response.
    • BUT you are having a say in the final outcome because you are reaching a written agreement with your spouse or domestic partner. So this is a “default with agreement” case. 
    • Click to learn more about default or uncontested cases

  3. You file a response with the court but also reach an agreement with your spouse or domestic partner about all the issues.

    • If you choose this option, it is considered an “uncontested” case because you and your spouse or domestic partner are not fighting over the issues. You are agreeing to the terms of your divorce or legal separation. 
    • Click to learn more about default or uncontested cases

  4. You file a response with the court in which you disagree with what your spouse or domestic partner is asking for.

    • This situation is considered a “contested” case since you and your spouse or domestic partner do not have an agreement and will need the court to make decisions in your case.
    • Click to find out what to do in a "contested" case.

If you decide to file a response, you have 30 days from the date you were served with the Summons and Petition to respond.

Alert! If you are currently in the military, special rules apply under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.  Talk to your family law facilitator, self-help center, or a lawyer. Click for help finding a lawyer.
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