During the divorce experience, receiving a Summons and Complaint can be an emotionally-exhausting task that can require some time to process. It could be a surprise. It could be a long time coming. Either way, it’s important to take a moment to breathe, but just don’t take too long. The longer that you wait, the more damage that could occur through a soon-to-be ex-spouse’s claims against your character or demands for what they feel they’re entitled to.
Unless you find yourself disinterested in the process entirely, you are going to want to take precautionary steps to ensure the best case possible for yourself. Whether you don’t wish for the divorce to be happening or you don’t want to deal with all of the steps and legal procedure, it doesn’t make it any less of an occurrence. Ignoring a divorce won’t make it go away.
In response to a Summons and Complaint for divorce, an Answer to the Complaint needs to be filed, and the amount of time allotted for the filing depends on the state. For example, the state of Maryland gives a 30 day window, but the states of Vermont and West Virginia only give a 20 day window to file an answer.
If they do not file an answer in that window of time, a default judgement will be made against you. It is a decision made by the court without your input and may be made without you being present.
If you have children, don’t file an answer, and don’t show up for any scheduled court hearings, the court will make orders regarding parental responsibilities, rights, and child support without any of your input, depending on the state and jurisdiction.
The court also will issue decisions, in regards to responsibilities for debt and property. Depending on the state and jurisdiction, there also is a chance you might never be notified of the court hearings. If you don’t file an answer, but appear at scheduled hearings, you may be allowed to participate, but may be required to fill out a Pro Se Appearance form, if you do not have an attorney. Depending on the state and jurisdiction, you also may file a notice of appearance before the final hearing in your divorce.
The need for interest
There are a variety of occurrences that can change someone’s opinion of being disinterested in divorce proceedings, such as being hit with a temporary restraining order, requiring you to leave the house. There’s also a variety of paperwork that can come into play, and someone disinterested in their own divorce may no longer have in their possession or have access to, because of disorganization, misfiling, or being away from the house that you are not allowed to be near because of the temporary restraining order.
This is why preparing your own counterclaim in the fight is so important. It allows you to have a voice in your own defense and communicate your own thoughts regarding what your soon-to-be ex-spouse is claiming are theirs or how they feel about you. If you do not want a divorce, but are facing one, it still is in your best interest in preparing and filing a counterclaim. Despite a counterclaim’s nature of being your own divorce complaint, it’s important for your future well-being to file one with the answer to the divorce complaint.
That being said, if your spouse changes their mind and wishes to withdraw the divorce complaint, the counterclaim prevents the whole divorce from being withdrawn without your consent. Thanks to the counterclaim, you would have to agree to no divorce occurring if they were to pull the plug on it, and putting the power back into your hands will allow you gain aspects of your life back that you had lost in this process.
Moment of pride
However, many people facing a divorce are not as willing in this situation. They do not necessarily wish to get back together with a partner who would file for divorce. They would more than likely keep the divorce proceedings going in an attempt to reach the best possible outcome for themselves and their children, if they have children. If they were previously disinterested in the divorce entirely, it might make them suddenly interested in it, out of pride or respect for themselves and their assets.
Filing a counterclaim can give you that security you seek, especially given that a counterclaim can be filed against your counterclaim, according to the Northwestern University Law Review. The depth of complaints regarding such important topics as custody, assets, and finances, means that the case should not be left up to chance. It needs to be taken seriously and with a vested interest in the outcome. Otherwise, you can find yourself on the losing end of a battle that began uphill, due to your own lack of interest.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.