What Does Relief Requested Mean in Divorce?

By Mike Broemmel

"Requested relief" is not just a widely used legal term, it also represents a major, necessary element of many pleadings -- the legal paperwork -- prepared and used in your divorce case. In simplest terms, "requested relief" is what you are asking the court to do with regard to your case.

Relief Requested in Preliminary Documents

A divorce case begins with the filing of a petition. The petition sets forth the basic elements of your divorce case, including basic information about the spouses. The heart of a petition is the relief requested -- what you want the court to do. For example, the typical divorce petition requests the court to enter orders relating to the division of property and debt, child custody and support, and alimony.

Relief Requested in Motions

Once divorce proceedings start, the court addresses different issues through motions filed by the parties. Motions represent the formal or official way each spouse communicates with each other and the judge in divorce court. Motions also must contain a request for relief, because they describe what you want to occur. For example, when a motion is filed seeking temporary custody of the children while the divorce case is pending, the motion must make that request of the court.

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Failure to Request or Pray for Relief

Although courts do grant some leeway when necessary items are left out of petitions and motions, if you leave out your request for relief, the court has nothing to act upon. Technically speaking, it means you are not asking the court to do anything. If you consistently submit documents without including your requested belief, it's possible that a court could find you in contempt or dismiss your case. A court clerk may also decline to file a petition lacking a request for relief.

Relief Requested in a Default Divorce

A default divorce case is one in which the spouse being sued for divorce does not file a response with the court. Provided that you filed your papers and followed procedures correctly, your spouse's failure to respond will not stop your divorce from proceeding. Instead, a default decree of divorce is typically entered by the court after a prescribed period of time passes. In the event of a default, you are generally entitled to all of the relief you requested in the petition filed at the start of the proceedings, because your spouse's lack of a response is interpreted as agreement with all your requests.

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Motion Vs. Petition



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Answering a Citation of Divorce

Being served with a divorce citation, or summons, often results in hurt and anger. However, you need to keep a cool head and decide if and how to answer the petition. This answer is a specific document filed with the court, in which you respond to the statements made in the petition. The amount of time you have to respond varies from state to state, but it is usually no more than 30 days.

What to Do If Your Spouse Filed an Uncontested Divorce & You Did Not Know?

A divorce doesn't start out as uncontested – it ends that way. In most states, uncontested simply means that spouses have reached an agreement on all issues so they can divorce without a trial. In some states, however, it can also mean that the defending spouse has done nothing toward taking an active part in the proceedings. If this happens to you because you're unaware that your spouse has filed for divorce, you often have recourse.

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 have less than a month to react and file a response with the court – usually about 20 days. If you do nothing, your spouse will probably be able to end your marriage by default. This means she'll get much – if not all – of what she asked the court for in her petition.

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