I was served with a Complaint for Divorce: now what?

The range of emotions someone experiences when served with a Complaint for Divorce are varied. Some are shocked. many are angered.  Confusion is common and I’ve even had some clients confess they were relieved.  Regardless of your emotional response, a legal response is necessary.
Don’t ignore the Complaint and hope it goes away

If you were served directly, you probably signed for the paperwork.  The date you signed for the Complaint is of critical importance.  The clock is now running.  Under the New Jersey Rules of Court, you have 35 days in which to prepare and file your response to the Complaint.  Typically, that response takes the form of an Answer or an Answer and Counter Claim.  You can prepare these documents on your own or you an hire an attorney.

We generally have a tendencey to ignore bad news and hope it goes away.  While certainly understanable, such an approach can lead to disaterous consequences in your divorce.  And here’s how.
Being held in default

If the parrt who filed the Complaint can establish that you were properly served with the Complaint, are not on active duty with the military AND the thirty five day period for you to respond to the complaint has expired, he or she can request the court to find you in default.
What does it mean to be held in default?

The system works best when both parties are involved in the process.  However, the filing party also has a  right to obtain a divorce.  Being held in default removes your right to particiapte in the proceedings.  You may not get a say in how your divorce is finalized.  You cannot prevent a divorce from happening by failing to respond in a timely manner.  You are only hurting yourself.  The court rules prescribe a detailed procedure the plaintiff must follow in order to proceed on a default basis.  But if these requirements our met, the case will be concluded and your rights and finances will be greatly impacted. As the old saying goes, he or she who hesitates is lost.
What can i do to prevent a default from taking place?

As discussed above, the first, and best, way to avoid being held in default is to properly respond to the Complaint within 35 days of receiving it.

If you have not complied with the initial 35 day filing deadline, you must act quickly to preserve your rights.  An attorney can be helpful in this regard.  Steps to take include: requesting additioanl time to answer, filing a objection to the reqeust to enter default, and/or appearing at any scheduled court dates to  note your objection and reqeust permission to participate in the divorce process.
The Durst Firm can help

If you find yourself in default, consider consulting with an experienced divorce attoreny immediatley as time is of the essence.  The Durst Firm has the expeience to deal with these situations.  Don’t let inaction impact your future.


The Law

About Sandy Durst

Sandy Durst, Esq., is the founding partner of The Durst Firm where he heads the Family Law Department. Individuals facing a divorce benefit from the combination of legal skill, common sense and compassion that Sandy brings to each and every matter. Each case is given the personalized attention it deserves.
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