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Why is it important to respond when served with divorce papers?

On Behalf of | Mar 23, 2022 | Divorce

When New York couples are in the middle of a divorce, it is often precipitated by one spouse informing the other that he or she wants to end the marriage. The person who has been served with divorce papers might not be sure of what to do. In some instances, they might simply ignore the case hoping that the other party will change his or her mind or function under the mistaken belief that it cannot go forward if they do not participate. That is an error that can be costly personally and financially. Even if the person who was served with divorce papers still believes the marriage can be salvaged or does not believe there are issues that need to be settled, it is wise to file a response.

Key points about filing a response

There are certain facts to remember about filing a response. If the service was done in New York State, the defendant will be given 20 days to file a response. If it was outside of New York State, there are 30 days. The defendant has three options. First, the Affidavit of Defendant can be signed and returned. This makes it an uncontested divorce and will subsequently be placed on the court calendar. Second, the defendant can file a Notice of Appearance and contest the case. Finally, the defendant might not follow through on either of these choices. This is a default.

The problem with a default is that the person who filed the case will generally get whatever he or she wants once the case is finalized. If, for example, there are children, the defendant will not have the opportunity to present a case for custody and visitation. The same is true for property division and any other aspect of the marriage. For an uncontested divorce, they can agree about these factors on their own and avoid a rancorous proceeding. If it is contested, the court will decide on lingering areas of dispute. Simply failing to reply takes the defendant’s preferences out of the equation and can be problematic in myriad ways.

Knowing how to respond to a divorce filing may require assistance

Of course, in some circumstances where there is little property, no minor children and the general areas of disagreement that come up in many divorces are not relevant, it might not matter whether a person responds after being served with divorce papers. Still, most cases have some concerns that must be addressed and it is wise to understand the value of being protected. Consulting with professionals in these types of cases can provide advice with how to craft a strategy based on the person’s needs and goals.