What Is a Summons With a Notice of Divorce?

By Mary Jane Freeman

Spouses can't file for divorce in secret. The other spouse must be notified of the proceedings so he can properly represent both himself and his interests. As a result, spouses who file for divorce must ensure a summons is delivered to the other spouse, which informs him of the divorce case and how to proceed.

Notifying Spouse of Divorce

When a spouse files for divorce, she does so by filing a petition in local court. The official name may be petition for divorce, complaint for divorce, petition for dissolution of marriage, or something similar. Once filed, the court will return copies to her along, with a summons -- both of which must be served on the other spouse. The summons is a legal document that informs the other spouse that a divorce has been filed, describes what is being asked for, such as alimony or custody, and informs him of his rights and responsibilities concerning the case, and also informs him of any upcoming deadlines.

Response to Summons

In general, the recipient spouse must respond to a petition and summons by filing an answer within a prescribed period of time, usually 20 or 30 days from receipt. He can agree to all, some or none of his spouse's requests. If some or all requests are rejected, the respondent spouse will typically substitute his demands in their place. For example, he may ask the court to award him the family house instead of agreeing to give it to his spouse. After sending in his answer, the court will typically hold a hearing on the matter and issue a divorce decree after resolving any marital issues. If he doesn't respond, the court will likely order a divorce by default. When this happens, the spouse who filed for divorce often gets everything she requested.

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What Happens in Minnesota If a Divorce Becomes Defaulted?


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The Inability to Serve Divorce Papers in Texas

It's frustrating when the respondent in a lawsuit is dodging process, especially in a divorce case. Ordinarily, a divorce petition is served by hand-delivering it to the respondent. But the case can proceed even when the respondent is avoiding service of process. A petitioner can serve the respondent by having the process server tape the divorce petition to the respondent's front door, or by publishing a notice of the divorce suit in a local newspaper, with the permission of the court.

Do Both Parties Have to Sign the Divorce Papers?

Different kinds of divorce papers can be as numerous as the problems they address and the functions they serve. Only a few require the signatures of both spouses, and some don’t require any signatures at all. A spouse doesn’t have to agree to a divorce for it to happen. If he won’t cooperate and won’t sign a particular document, the court will usually finalize the divorce without his participation.

What Are the Rules for Serving Divorce Papers?

Simply filing a complaint or petition isn’t enough to begin the process of getting divorced. The court can’t make decisions or rulings unless it has jurisdiction over you and your spouse. It gains jurisdiction over you when you meet residency requirements and file. It achieves jurisdiction over your spouse when he receives official and verifiable notice of the divorce so he has an opportunity to object to what you’re asking for. Both the Fifth and the 14th Amendments protect this right, called “due process.”

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