What Happens if I Ignore Divorce Summons Papers in New York?

By Beverly Bird

The ostrich-like tactic of burying your head in the sand never works in a divorce situation. Depending on the extent of your marital property and whether you have children, ignoring a divorce summons in New York can cause big problems you can’t easily undo. New York law makes it relatively simple for your spouse to go ahead and get a divorce without your cooperation.

Service of the Summons

After your spouse files for divorce, she has four months to officially have the documents served on you. In New York, if you don’t agree to accept the papers and sign for them, this usually means a process server will deliver the papers to you personally. Your spouse’s papers will include the summons, telling you of your right to respond, and either a notice or a verified complaint. A notice is a condensed version of the complaint, telling you that your spouse has filed and what she’s asking a judge to award her, such as custody of your children, spousal support and all the marital property.

Your Right to Respond

After the process server gives you a copy of your spouse’s divorce documents, he will file his own paperwork with the court, confirming the date when he did so. You now have 20 days to respond. If your spouse filed in New York, but you don’t also live there, you have 30 days. If you received a notice, you can file a simple document called an appearance, letting the court know you want the opportunity to address the things your spouse has requested. If she filed a complaint, you should speak with a lawyer or other legal professional to draft a verified answer to the complaint, which specifies in detail the things you want the court to give you.

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

Default Judgment

If you ignore the summons, your spouse can ask the court to enter a default judgment against you 40 days after your time to answer has expired. If you don't act, your spouse will appear before a judge at the end of those 40 days, as soon as the court can schedule a default hearing. She can explain to the judge why she should receive everything she asked for, and because you haven’t participated, the judge will most likely grant her requests. The judge will sign a default divorce judgment. It becomes a final order, possibly denying you custody, visitation rights and your share of marital property, if these are the things your spouse requested.

Remedies After Default

If your spouse receives a default judgment, you have a very short period of time in which to try to have it set aside. You can file a motion with the court, asking the judge to vacate or undo the judgment. However, the longer you wait, the less likely it is that you will be successful. You’d have to convince the court that you had a very good reason for not responding to the summons, such as that you were out of the country or incapacitated. You would also have to prove why your spouse should not have received all the things she asked for. Even if you’re successful, your spouse has the right to appeal the judge’s decision to vacate the judgment, so it might become a drawn-out legal battle.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
The Time Frame to Adjudicate Divorce Default in New York

References

Related articles

Ways to Respond to Divorce Summons in North Carolina

No matter where you live, when your spouse serves you with a divorce summons, it's possible to do nothing at all. However, in most states, you'll risk a lot if you don't respond. If your spouse has asked for full custody and all the property you own, you'll give up these things without a fight if you don't answer. This isn't always the case in North Carolina because divorce complaints generally don't include requests for property or custody.

How to Get a Divorce When One Spouse Won't Agree

No one can stop you from getting a divorce if you want one, with the possible exception of the court. If you don’t follow proper legal procedure, a judge can deny your divorce, forcing you to start over. Your spouse can't stop you, but she can complicate the process.

Can Only One Party File in a No-Fault Divorce?

If spouses always had to file for divorce together, it would most likely drop the divorce rate to something close to zero. Your spouse's cooperation is not required when you file, even if you choose not to cite fault grounds in your divorce complaint or petition. A no-fault divorce is not the same as an uncontested divorce, in which spouses reach an agreement regarding all issues. In this case, they can file a petition together in many states.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

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 ...

What Is a Default Judgment in Divorce in Michigan?

In Michigan and elsewhere, a default judgment is what happens when one spouse doesn’t participate in a divorce. The law ...

New York Laws on a Divorce Adultery Countersuit

New York has recognized no-fault grounds for divorce since 2010, but this doesn’t prevent a spouse from filing on fault ...

What Happens in Minnesota If a Divorce Becomes Defaulted?

In Minnesota, a divorce defaults when one spouse refuses or neglects to become legally involved in the process. If he ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED