Your options for responding to divorce papers in California

Newport Family Law & Mediation Group

Divorce papers are important documents that you want to read and handle immediately. California only allows you 30 days to submit a formal response from the date you receive the divorce papers.

Default with agreement

If you have a written notarized agreement with your spouse on the details of your divorce, such as property division, child custody, alimony and child support, then you don’t have to respond to the divorce petition. The legal term for this is “default with agreement”. You must, however, make certain that your written agreement is valid in the eyes of the law.

Give up your rights

Giving up your rights to negotiate and fight for what assets you keep and how much you have to pay in child support or alimony isn’t desirable. But that’s what you do if you don’t respond to the divorce petition within 30 days. California calls this situation a true default.


When you respond to the divorce petition, you protect your right to have a say in the judge’s decisions. You can respond even if you already have a written agreement with your spouse on the details of your divorce. This is an uncontested case. If you don’t have a written notarized agreement with your spouse, then your response is a contested case.

What you can’t do

California law prohibits you and your spouse from moving out of state for a certain period after you receive the divorce petition. You will also have restrictions on what you can do with assets, debts, money and property. Read the summons carefully to know what your restrictions and rights are. Consult with a divorce lawyer if you don’t fully understand a part of the law.

As painful as receiving your divorce papers is, you should promptly respond to them. Ignoring them often results in the judge granting all of your spouse’s requests.

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