In America, over 50% of marriages end in divorce. The reasons vary drastically, as does the path you can take in pursuing your divorce. No matter what process you ultimately choose, it begins with one party filing a divorce complaint to be served to the other party. Depending on your preferences, this is followed by divorce litigation in the courtroom, mediation, or other divorce processes.

However, in some circumstances, one party may refuse to participate in any form of proceedings. This can start by ignoring the initial divorce complaint, essentially trying to halt the process. If you are experiencing this complication, your best option would be to proceed with a default divorce.

What Is a Default Divorce?

Across the Midwest, detailed guidelines to how a default divorce takes place could vary on the time frame and specific definitions. In general, it is a proceeding in which one party receives a judgment concerning their divorce based on the opposing party’s failure to respond to the divorce petition. This could be due to the non-filing spouse’s refusal to participate. This can also be because the non-filer refuses to acknowledge their marriage is dissolving and hopes by ignoring the proceedings, they will halt the process. This can also be allowed if one spouse is unable to find the other.

These circumstances often involve spouses that may have been separated for years or are living in different areas but have never gone through the legal process. In some circumstances, both parties can agree to enter a default judgment. This is a rare circumstance and would largely depend on any shared assets, property, or children.

A default divorce typically only involves one spouse’s ambition to divorce. This means as the non-filing, no-show spouse, your voice will not be heard. This often results in settlements that don’t provide any beneficial outcome to you. For the filing spouse, this method can be initially frustrating since you have to allow for certain time frames to pass for your missing spouse to respond, but you’ll often receive a better outcome when it comes to a final settlement.

In most Midwestern states, a spouse has up to 30 days to submit a response to the initial divorce decree. This amount of time can vary depending on whether they reside in the state where the divorce is being pursued. If this time frame passes with no response, the initial filing party will apply for default within the court. This will also be sent to the spouse with a shorter time frame to respond. If there is still no response, a default hearing can officially be requested.

What to Expect From a Default Divorce Proceeding

The process of divorce for a default case is similar to those in which both parties are involved. While waiting for a response can feel like a lifetime, once you’re approved for a default hearing, the proceedings can move quickly. The proceeding will often involve the filing party, their legal representation, and the judge. The proceedings are more relaxed in general since you don’t have to worry about swaying a judge to see your side of things while battling your spouse’s attorney. The judge will have mandatory questions that will need to be addressed depending on the jurisdiction your proceedings are under.

These questions often involve determining if the residency requirements are met, if the marriage is irreconcilable, and if there is a pregnancy or children involved. The judge will rule on important aspects such as property and asset division, as well as child custody based on the child’s best interest. Once all required questions are answered and appropriately addressed, a default divorce decree will be signed. This decree needs to be served to the former spouse within a matter of days. The receiving party can choose whether or not to respond.

Are There Any Risks Involved in a Default Divorce?

With any divorce proceeding, there are risks of which to be aware. Default divorces have risks involved for both the petitioner and the receiving party. The petitioner has to understand that there is a risk that their former spouse could later fight the divorce order. This does require proof that effort wasn’t taken to locate and serve the different petitions concerning the divorce. If the petitioner did all they could to reach their spouse, this opposition will likely not stand in court.

However, if the process wasn’t properly followed, the decisions reached in the default divorce could be revisited. If granted, you would have to go through the entire divorce process again. Even if it is not granted, you’ll likely have to invest time and money to ensure you are protected and can prove you did what you could.

There are risks involved for the respondent as well. Depending on your marriage, you may feel blindsided by your partner’s intention to seek a divorce. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed, and sometimes it can feel easier to simply not respond. However, missing the deadlines to respond can leave you with serious legal repercussions. If the default divorce proceedings proceed, major decisions that impact your life will be made without you.

In essence, your voice will go unheard, and the judge will make their decision based on the evidence and statements provided by the petitioner. If there is clear evidence that you received the appropriate documentation, you won’t be able to petition the decisions made by the judge. If, on the other hand, you can prove that the petitioner didn’t take the necessary steps to reach you, you can fight for a reversal of the decisions found in the initial default divorce.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

Whether you are seeking or looking to overthrow a default divorce decision, you’ll benefit from having an experienced attorney on your side. Seeking a default divorce may be necessary if your spouse refuses to participate or if you can’t find them. Your attorney will know the precise laws concerning your default divorce, especially the time frame in which your spouse has to respond to your petition for divorce. Your attorney will work with you every step of the way to ensure you are proceeding at the appropriate pace to avoid any further complications in the future.

If you feel you were not properly contacted and want to fight the decisions made in a default proceeding, your attorney will know what evidence you need to support your claim. Your lawyer can help prove you were not properly notified and that you deserve a fair divorce proceeding. At Stange Law Firm, we can help you whether you are the filing spouse or the one served. Contact us to learn more about default divorces in your state.