Default Divorce Judgments Must Match the Petition’s Relief Sought

Hossein Berenji, Jul 14, 2022

Getting a divorce is an emotional and legally challenging process. You’re faced with making tough decisions about your life and marriage while also navigating the California divorce process.

In some cases, you may be able to get a default divorce. Keep reading to learn more about default divorce judgments and how they interact with the initial petition for divorce put forth by one of the parties.

Default Divorce

A default divorce is one way to get a divorce in Beverly Hills, California. It’s not something that automatically happens, however. Courts have an interest in making sure both spouses have a say in their divorce.

A default divorce occurs when one spouse does not respond to the petition for dissolution and the other spouse requests the court enter a default divorce. This is only done when the respondent, the spouse who was served the divorce papers, does not answer the petition for dissolution.

Usually, the court will also require the petitioning spouse to take extra steps to give the respondent more opportunities to respond. This may include publishing a notice of the divorce petition in the newspaper.

The idea here is to allow the respondent the opportunity to be involved in their divorce because, if someone doesn’t respond to the petition, they’re effectively giving up their right to participate in the divorce process. A court will want to be certain every effort was made to allow the respondent to answer.

The Default Judgment Must Match the Petition

When a spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage, their petition will make a request for distribution of marital property. Marital property is any asset or debt acquired during the marriage. California is a community property state, which means that any property bought or acquired during the marriage must be divided equally in divorce.

But not everything is marital property in a marriage. For example, if you inherited a house that you and your spouse never used in the marriage, that would be your separate property and not subject to distribution in divorce. In a petition for dissolution, you would note that you have this house that is separate property.

In a default divorce, a court may rightly determine that house is your separate property and not subject to distribution. What the court cannot do is go above and beyond what you have requested in your petition.

For instance, if you had a mortgage on that house, the court cannot order your spouse to pay half of that mortgage. California courts are hesitant to give petitioners more than they ask for when the respondent is unable to defend themself.

This is why it’s vital that you request everything in your petition. If the house you inherited was marital property because you and your spouse used it for many years as a vacation home, any debts on that property would be subject to equal distribution. But if you fail to ask the court in your petition to order that your spouse is on the hook for half of the debts, a court cannot make that order on its own.

Contact a Beverly Hills Divorce Lawyer Today

When you file your petition for dissolution, it’s imperative that you include all relief possible. If you don’t, and a court enters a default divorce, you may be unable to hold your spouse accountable for any debts incurred during the marriage. Contact Berenji & Associates today to get experience you can trust so that you can proceed with confidence. The divorce process can be complicated and it’s critical that you’re not taken advantage of.

Beverly Hills Office
9595 Wilshire Blvd Ste 959
Beverly Hills CA 90212
(310) 271-6290

Los Angeles Office
550 S. Hill Street STE 1467
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 985-3007