Put very simply, a default divorce is one in which the other party does not file their Response and you
are allowed to finish your divorce alone, without the other party’s involvement. What does that mean?
It means that the other party is cut out of the divorce process and the Judge should not hear any
arguments or accept any filings after the default is entered from your spouse. And it means that you
don’t have to wait for your spouse to finish your divorce.
After you have filed your initial divorce paperwork, including your Summons, Petition for Dissolution of
Marriage and any other required documents for your particular divorce, you have to have someone else
serve that paperwork on your spouse. (as a party to the case, you cannot serve your spouse yourself)
That means someone other than you must actually hand a court-stamped and filed copy of that
paperwork to your spouse. That person can be a friend, family member or even a professional process
server. Next, that person must sign a form called a Proof of Service, listing all of the divorce paperwork
that was served on your spouse, when and where the other party was served and then that form must
also be filed with the Court.
After the other party is served, you must wait 30 days to see if the other side files their Response. (That
is the “answer” to your Petition) If after 30 days your spouse does NOT file a Response, you can take
their “default” which basically kicks them out of the case. You need to file what is known as a “Request
to Enter Default” with the Court along with certain other paperwork and if you have done everything
right, the court will enter a default against your spouse, and you can continue forward without your
spouse involved in the divorce.
The next step would be for you to prepare what are known as Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure.
These are required financial documents and you MUST complete and serve your completed documents
on the other party because you cannot get divorced in California without properly completing and
serving your Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure and then filing a proof of service with the court.
The past step is when you prepare and file your Judgment. A judgment is how you end a divorce case. If
you try to submit your judgment without first completing your Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure,
the Court will automatically reject your proposed Judgment. If you ONLY file a proof of service without
REALLY completing and serving your Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure on your spouse, you need to
know that the court can and will set aside your judgment, even 10, 15 even 20 years later. Declarations
of Disclosure are REQUIRED.
However, just because you have “defaulted” your spouse, that does not mean that you and your spouse
cannot agree to the terms in your judgment and work together to get it completed. This is called a
“Default with Agreement.” However, you should be aware that by signing the judgment, the other party
will ALSO be forced to pay their Response filing fee of $435 (or the cost of the filing fee, should it go up).
This is because when they simply sign anything that gets filed with he court, they are making their “first
appearance” and must pay their first appearance fee.
Once you and your spouse have come to an agreement about the proposed Judgment and what it
states, both of you will sign it. Make sure that your spouse’s signature is notarized. A notary is an
official who can witness the signing of documents and certify that those signatures are authentic.
You will then file your agreed-upon or “stipulated” Judgment with the Court along with your Request to
Enter Default form and certain other necessary forms. Again, make sure that you have previously
completed your Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure or they will automatically reject your judgment
packet. The Court will review the stipulated Judgment and send you notice in the mail that they either
approve the judgment by signing it, reject it by sending it back to you with the reasons listed for the
rejection, or set a hearing for you to come in for a default prove-up hearing as we described above.