What Happens If I Don’t Respond to a Divorce Complaint?

What Happens If I Don’t Respond to a Divorce Complaint in Tennessee?

If you have recently been served with a Complaint for Divorce in the State of Tennessee you may be experiencing a number of understandable emotions. Depending on your feelings about the marriage and pending divorce, you may feel angry, sad, confused, or even ambivalent. In Tennessee, that last emotion – ambivalent – could cause you problems down the road if it means that you don’t respond to a divorce complaint.  If you have been served with a Complaint, consult with an experienced Tennessee family law attorney immediately even if you have no intention of fighting the divorce.

Call 615-898-1560 for Free Consultation.

Like most states, Tennessee now allows a married couple to get divorced without the need to prove fault on the part of either party. A no-fault divorce is simply based on the fact that the parties have irreconcilable differences that prevent the marriage from working. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to prevent a divorce from happening, causing some people to essentially ignore a Complaint for Divorce when served with one. This is a mistake for several reasons.

When one party to a marriage files a Complaint for Divorce in Tennessee the law requires the filing party (the “Petitioner”) to serve the other party (the “Respondent”) with a copy of the Complaint and Summons as soon after filing as possible. Once you have been legally served with the Complaint you have 30 days to file a formal written Answer with the court. Your Answer preserves your rights in the divorce. If you fail to file an Answer with the court your spouse can eventually ask the court for a default judgment.

In essence, a default judgment allows your spouse to get everything he or she asked for in the divorce without any input from you. Because you ignored the Complaint and Summons, you gave up your right to contest anything in the Complaint. This could result in a number of negative consequences for you, including, but not limited to:

  • Making you legally responsible for debts of the marriage that you did not incur and/or that you feel you should not have to pay.
  • Awarding your spouse assets of the marriage that you feel should be yours.
  • Awarding your spouse custody of minor children.
  • Not providing you with adequate parenting time with minor children.
  • Awarding your spouse excessive child support.
  • Ordering you to pay spousal support (alimony) that you feel you should not have to pay.

If you have been served with a Complaint for Divorce in Murfreesboro, Smyrna, La Vergne, Tennessee  or in greater Rutherford County, do not ignore the document. Consult with an experienced Murfreesboro Tennessee family law attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the divorce proceedings. Call 615-898-1560 for a free consultation.

Dinah Michael