Responding to a Divorce by Certified Mail

By David Carnes

If your spouse files a divorce petition to initiate divorce proceedings, you must respond to this petition by the deadline to avoid a default judgment. You may file your answer in person with the court clerk or by certified mail. You must also submit a copy of your answer to your spouse or his attorney by certified mail.

The Answer

The divorce petition will contain specific claims and statements of fact that are alleged to justify the divorce. You must specifically answer each of these claims and statements fact, and either admit or deny each one. For example, your spouse may claim to be entitled to sole physical custody of the children. You may deny this claim and provide supporting statements of fact, such as the fact that your children would have to change schools to live with your spouse.

Counterclaims

You are entitled to make counterclaims -- claims that you would have made if you had filed the petition yourself. For example, you may demand sole physical custody of the children, or you may ask the court to assess all court costs and legal fees against your spouse. Your counterclaims should be accompanied by statements of fact that, if proven true, would justify the demands that you are making. If you and your spouse already made a marital dissolution agreement and his petition reflects the terms of the agreement, you may simply admit all of his claims and statements of fact and decline to make any counterclaims.

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Format

Different jurisdictions impose different formal requirements for an answer. Although some jurisdictions require you to draft your answer on your own, many require the use of pre-printed forms. For example, each of your spouse's claims and statements of fact may be numbered, and you may be required to check "admitted" or "denied" and provide a brief explanation. The form may include a separate section for counterclaims. It will also include a certificate of service in which you confirm that you served a copy on your spouse or his attorney. It may also include an identify verification section requiring your notarized signature.

Default

If you fail to file your answer by the deadline, or if you send it by regular mail and it never arrives, the court may allow you to file a late answer by signing a form as long as you show up at the hearing. If you don't file an answer and don't show up at the hearing, the court may enter a default judgment against you, and the terms of the divorce may reflect terms demanded by your spouse. If a default judgment is entered against you, you may contest it later if you can show that you were never served with the summons. You may also contest child support and custody orders, even if you ignored the summons, by showing that these orders are not in the best interests of the child based on evidence that was not presented at the hearing.

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Can You Just Not Do Anything in a Divorce if You Are the Respondent?
 

References

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Do Divorce Papers Reflect Adultery as the Reason?

If a spouse has committed adultery, no state forces the wronged partner to include this information in his complaint or petition for divorce. As of 2010, all 50 states recognize no-fault grounds, so spouses don’t have to prove any marital misconduct to get a divorce. Some “pure” no-fault states don't recognize any fault grounds at all, so you don’t have the option of alleging that your spouse was unfaithful. However, in other jurisdictions, if you want to file on adultery grounds, the details will appear in at least some of your divorce papers.

Divorce by Default

A divorce by default is one of the simplest ways to divorce. It generally occurs when one spouse doesn’t answer a divorce complaint within the required time frame. Sometimes, when spouses are in agreement as to the grounds and terms of the divorce, they might decide to obtain a divorce by default as a way to avoid the additional paperwork involved in completing an uncontested divorce process. Each state has its own set of rules regarding fees, service and documents concerning the divorce process. You can use an online legal document service to prepare and file all your divorce paperwork.

Do-it-Yourself Divorce Documents for Michigan

Like other states, Michigan allows divorcing couples to file their own paperwork with the court without the assistance of an attorney. This is a particularly helpful option if you and your spouse still get along enough to agree on the major terms of your divorce such as property division and child custody arrangements. While you can draft your own documents, an online legal document provider can help make this process easier for you and your spouse.

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