How to Respond to Divorce Papers in Massachusetts

By Shannon Johnson

So, your spouse has just served you with divorce papers? Even if you were expecting them, staring at a divorce petition is a reality check. No need to panic. Filing a proper response to divorce papers in Massachusetts requires that you carefully read the divorce petition, draft a response and adhere to the rules governing the process.

So, your spouse has just served you with divorce papers? Even if you were expecting them, staring at a divorce petition is a reality check. No need to panic. Filing a proper response to divorce papers in Massachusetts requires that you carefully read the divorce petition, draft a response and adhere to the rules governing the process.

Timing

Generally speaking, you must respond to a divorce complaint within 20 days from the day you receive it. In most types of court cases, failure to respond would result in a default judgment, which could mean that the person filing the complaint is awarded everything he or she requested. However, unlike in other types of lawsuits in Massachusetts, failing to respond to a divorce complaint in a timely manner will not result in default. However, even with this rule, it is always more prudent to file a response to a divorce petition.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Answer

An answer is the simplest way to respond to a divorce complaint. Make sure to read each paragraph of the complaint carefully so you are responding as accurately as possible to each allegation raised. If the divorce complaint alleges fault grounds, you should also include any defenses you might have in the answer. For example, a valid defense may be your spouse condoned your actions.

Answer and Counterclaim

You have the right to include a counterclaim in your answer to the divorce petition. A counterclaim is your chance to tell the court your side of the facts, to include any grounds you may have for wanting the divorce and what you are seeking from the divorce. For example, if your spouse petitions for full custody, you could counterclaim, asking the court to grant full custody to you. Another example of a potential counterclaim is requesting alimony payments or a portion of the marital estate treated as premarital property and awarded to you.

Filing and Serving the Response

Check your answer or answer/counterclaim to make sure you have responded to every allegation raised in the complaint, corresponding your responses to match the complaint paragraphs. Sign and date the response, make copies for yourself and for your spouse then file it in with the clerk of court. In addition, you will have to file a Certificate of Service. The Certificate of Service is where you swear under penalty of perjury that you have sent a copy of your response to your spouse, or spouse’s attorney, via regular mail, certified mail or personal delivery.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Can You Just Not Do Anything in a Divorce if You Are the Respondent?

References

Resources

Related articles

What Happens When You Are Served Divorce Papers?

Most people are not able to think clearly in the hours or even days after they receive divorce papers. Although the laws are slightly different from state to state, most courts understand this and give you time to respond. You don’t necessarily have to act immediately, but you must do something eventually if you’re going to protect your rights. No state forces a spouse to stay married just because her partner does not respond to her divorce petition -- she’ll just move forward with the proceedings and obtain her divorce without the spouse's participation.

How Many Days Does a Respondent Have in a Divorce in New York State?

Like most civil litigation, a divorce in New York state begins with the filing of a civil complaint and summons in the state's trial court, called the Supreme Court. After one spouse files for divorce, the time frame for the other spouse to file his answer to the divorce complaint depends on the how he is given notice of the divorce proceedings.

What Do I Need to Do to Contest a No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania offers spouses more ways to get divorced than most states. In addition to several fault grounds, the state offers two separate no-fault options. The first and easiest no-fault option involves spouses jointly signing and filing a mutual complaint for divorce, so contesting the process is not an issue. Pennsylvania's other no-fault option is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and a spouse can contest these grounds.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

The Response to a Petition for Dissolution

Getting served with a petition for dissolution or divorce is unnerving at best, even if you're expecting it. You may ...

What Is a Counterclaim for Divorce?

When your spouse serves you with divorce papers, the worst thing you can do is nothing. If you don't respond, you run ...

In Divorce, What Does It Mean to Have an Answer Filed?

You just received a complaint, or petition, for divorce from your spouse. Now you need to file an answer to the ...

What Are the Steps to Filing a Divorce?

Once you have decided to end your marriage, there are several steps you must take to begin the divorce process. Exact ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED