Reaching the point at which you realize that divorce is inevitable is never easy. Once you have accepted that your marriage is at an end, however, the next step is to begin the process of divorce which will legally end your marriage. Unless you have been through the divorce process before, it can be somewhat intimidating. Navigating the legal system can be challenging under the best of circumstances. When emotions are running high, as is usually the case when divorce is looming on the horizon, it can be even more difficult to try and navigate the legal system. Consequently, you may have a number of questions relating to the divorce process. One frequently asked question is “What happened if my spouse doesn’t answer the Complaint?” A Murfreesboro divorce attorney explains what happens if your spouse fails to answer the Complaint and what impact it will have on your divorce.
Starting the Divorce Process in Tennessee
If you have made the difficult decision to move forward with a divorce, the first step in the State of Tennessee is to draft and file a Complaint for Divorce. If you are filing the Complaint, you are the Petitioner and your spouse is the Respondent. The Complaint for Divorce includes basic information about the parties and the marriage, such as dates of marriage and separation and whether there are minor children born of the marriage. The Complaint also indicates what grounds the Petitioner is using to seek the divorce and asks the court to grant the Petitioner a divorce. A Summons must also be prepared. The Summons is a legal document that informs the Respondent that a lawsuit for divorce has been filed and that the Respondent only has a specified period of time to respond to the Complaint. If a hearing has already been set, it will also inform the Respondent of the hearing date and time. Once the Complaint and Summons are ready, they must be filed in the appropriate court and properly served on the Respondent.
Answering the Complaint
From the time your spouse is officially served with the Complaint for Divorce and Summons, he/she will have 30 days to file an official, written Answer with the court. An Answer is a legal document that “answers” the allegations in the Complaint. In the Answer, the Respondent states whether he/she agrees, denies, or does not have sufficient information to respond to each allegation in the Complaint. A Respondent may also choose to file a counter-complaint and/or other documents at this time; however, the important document is the Answer. If your spouse does file an Answer, the divorce will proceed as a contested divorce or, if you two have reached an agreement resolving all issues in the divorce it may be concluded through the filing of a Marital Settlement Agreement with the court for the court’s approval.
If your spouse does not file an Answer within the allotted time frame, and does not receive permission for an extension of time within which to submit his/her Answer from the court, your spouse effectively waives his/her right to participate in the divorce process. Specifically, your spouse gives up the right to contest anything in the divorce. What does that mean? It means that you can file for a default judgment in your favor. A default judgment will give you most of the things you asked for in the divorce without the need to argue or litigate those issues. For example, in your Complaint for Divorce you might have asked that your spouse be responsible for the majority of the marital debt. Because your spouse ignored the Complaint, the court can grant that request and your spouse could end up responsible for those debts post-divorce. You could also end up with the exact parenting plan, child support order, and division of marital assets that you asked for in the divorce without ever having to litigate those issues – all because your spouse failed to Answer the Complaint.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you are contemplating divorce in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the divorce process. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.