Receiving notice that your spouse filed for divorce can be a stressful experience. Most states require that the filing spouse have the other spouse personally served with the divorce paperwork, which typically includes both a summons and complaint. These documents provide a basic outline of the case and explain your initial responsibilities. Knowing how and when you must respond to this paperwork will help ensure your full participation in all aspects of the divorce process.
The summons is your formal notification that your spouse filed for a divorce. The summons form varies by state. It might include information about your rights and the divorce process. The summons also lets you know how long you have to respond -- generally within 20 to 30 days -- in the form of a written answer, or response. Your answer must indicate whether you agree with the claims made in your spouse's complaint. These claims include statements such as where you were married and the grounds for the divorce. You may also need to respond to more complex issues in the complaint such as financial disclosures and specific requests for property and support. Forms to answer the summons are usually available at the court and on the court's website for downloading. Courts often provide the receiving spouse with legally compliant fill-in answer forms for convenience. If you use a fill-in form, you can attach additional pages if you disagree with statements in the complaint and need more room to explain. You can also file a counterclaim with your answer to ask for your own relief.