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Default Judgement: What Is It in Divorce?

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Under the Florida law, if a married couple faces issues that they cannot reconcile, they are free to file for divorce without any of them having to prove who is at fault. In addition, when one spouse forwards a petition for dissolution of marriage, the other party has a limited amount of time to respond. If you fail to respond within 20 days, there are consequences.

However, even though people understand that they need to promptly respond to petitions, some will always delay filing a response. There are many reasons why people delay responding after being served with divorce papers. One reason is being emotionally unprepared to deal with divorce.

Another reason could be that you are unprepared for the demands that come with divorce cases. Divorce is a tedious process because of court appearances and other legal processes involved. When you receive the divorce papers, you might find that your schedule does not allow you to respond at that moment because if you do, it means you have to meet with your attorney and engage in other activities such as attending court hearings. Because of your tight schedule, you might decide to keep postponing responding to the petitioner (your spouse). Your decision could land you a default judgment.

What Is a Default Judgement in Divorce Cases?

The laws governing default judgment fall under rule 12.140. According to the law, when a petitioner files a petition for dissolution of marriage and serves you with divorce papers, you need to respond within 20 days. You can only extend that period if the court allows you to do so. Failure to answer the petition on time will not automatically cause anything to happen. You might exceed the 20 days by ten days or even one month, and still, nothing will happen.

However, if you exceed the 20 days’ time limit, and your spouse decides to file a motion for default with the clerk, the court might grant a default judgment in favor of the petitioner. When a petitioner files a motion for default judgment, they inform the court that you have not responded to the petition to dissolve the marriage on time. If the court grants the petitioner default judgment, the divorce case can proceed without your presence. Once the court gives a petition default judgment, it becomes difficult for the respondent to object to any of the terms included in the petition filed by your spouse.

However, the court does provide an exception in a situation involving children.

What Action To Take if Your Partner Files for a Default Judgement

If your spouse files a motion for default judgment with the court clerk, you can challenge the ruling to have it set aside as long as the judge has not yet entered the default judgment. To challenge the decision, you need to argue your case in court.

Your argument must show the court that;

  • You had a valid reason for not responding to the petition for dissolution of marriage on time. It must be a reason beyond your control for the court to consider your case.
  • You acted fast after you realized that the petitioner had filed a motion for default judgment.

Allow Us to Help You

If you need help challenging a default judgment, contact a qualified Fort Lauderdale family attorney at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A.  or fill our online contact form to schedule a consultation.


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