How to Respond to Divorce Papers in Washington
A divorce case officially begins when one spouse files or serves the other spouse with the initial divorce petition. The party being served with divorce papers should receive a copy of the petition and a court summons informing them how much time they have to file a response.
The summons contains information specific to the case, such as the case number, while the petition includes the names of the people involved, the legal claim being made, and the desired outcome or relief the filing spouse is seeking.
In Washington, the party served with papers generally has 20 days to file the response. If they are served papers out of state, they have 60 days to file a petition. If you receive a divorce summons from your spouse, then you should immediately consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss the specific steps you need to take to ensure your rights are protected.
What If a Spouse Misses the Filing Deadline?
If you fail to properly respond to the petition, it will have a substantial impact on the outcome of the case. For example, the filing spouse can submit a motion for default if the other spouse fails to file their response to the petition by the deadline. A motion for default informs the judge that the other party didn’t file a response on time and asks them to grant the relief requested in the petition.
The petition contains the filing spouse’s request for relief, such as their demands for creating a parenting plan, how specific assets should be divided, or whether they are entitled to spousal support. If the judge decides to grant the motion for default, then some or all of the requested relief can be awarded to the filing spouse without any input from the non-responsive spouse.
This is why you should seek counsel from a qualified attorney who can explain all your legal options regarding property, assets, and child custody. Make sure you carefully review the entire summons and petition, and ask your attorney about any questions you might have.
If you don’t file a response to the initial petition and never get in touch with the court, then the motion for default can be served without further notice you. However, if you act on the case, then you are entitled to receive notice of the motion of default so you have a chance to respond.
When a judge grants a motion for default, the filing party must complete a 90-day waiting period before the judge will finalize the divorce. If the non-filing party acts fast, they might be able to convince the judge to vacate the order of default. However, you will need a skilled attorney in your corner if you want to persuade the judge that your reason for not responding is valid.
Drafting & Submitting a Response
You and your attorney will need to complete the form titled “Response to Petition about a Marriage.” The form is essentially a list of questions and boxes to mark your answers. Your attorney can advise you if you aren’t sure about a particular question on the form.
Your attorney can also assist with drafting a brief supporting statement that explains your reasons for each demand that you are contesting, as well as any counter-demands you include in the response. Your lawyer will make 2 copies of the response. The first original response will be filed by your attorney with the clerk’s office and a copy will be served to the other spouse.
Our Divorce Team Is Here to Help
After you file your response, there are still additional steps to take regarding the divorce. An experienced divorce attorney can assess the details of your case and devise a comprehensive legal strategy to ensure your best interests are protected.
To schedule a consultation with an attorney at McKinley Irvin, please call 206-397-0399 or contact us online.