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What Is a Divorce by Default?

If you are filing for divorce in Indiana, you will need to serve your spouse, or provide notice that you are intending to end the marriage. However, serving divorce papers is not always a simple process; if your spouse does not agree to the divorce or hides from service, you can face a major obstacle to dissolving your marriage.

You do not have to remain in a marriage simply because your spouse refuses to comply with your request. In these situations, the court may enter a judgement for a divorce by default, which does not require your spouse’s confirmation. In some cases, you and your spouse may choose to enter a divorce by default to expedite the process.

When Does a Divorce by Default Occur?

After you file your divorce petition with your county clerk’s office, you will need to provide your spouse with copies of your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and allow him or her to answer the complaint. You can serve your spouse via certified mail, or you can have a private process server or sheriff’s service provide these documents on your behalf. Your spouse will have a certain amount of time to respond to the complaint and file a counterclaim.

If your spouse misses the deadline to answer, however, the court will still proceed with the divorce. You will instead enter a divorce by default; during this process, the court will set a hearing date for you to appear. At this hearing, the judge will issue a ruling in the divorce as well as divorce orders.

It is in your spouse’s best interest to respond to service and appear in court, however. By failing to respond, he or she waives the right to have any say in the divorce agreement — which may include important matters such as alimony, child custody and support, and asset division. During a divorce by default, the judge will likely issue the ruling based entirely on the petition you file.

In some cases, you and your spouse may agree from the beginning to enter a divorce by default. You can choose one spouse to file the petition and agree to the terms of the petition prior to initiating the process. The other spouse will not respond, and the court can grant the divorce quickly and confidentially.

Pros and Cons of a Divorce by Default

A divorce by default can provide several benefits to the petitioner spouse. These processes are typically faster and cheaper than longer divorces that require mediation or a courtroom trial. With a default judgement, you do not have to produce the same financial information that you need to provide in normal divorce proceedings. Collecting paystubs, tax returns, account statements and other documents can be tedious and time consuming, and a divorce by default cuts down on this work significantly.

There are downsides to this process, however. The defendant spouse may not understand the terms of the petition and unwittingly agree to an unfavorable outcome. By failing to respond, he or she waives the right to contest court orders, which can place the defendant in a difficult situation.

Getting Help from an Indiana Divorce Lawyer

Whether your spouse is attempting to enter a divorce by default, or you are struggling with receiving a response to your petition, an Indiana divorce attorney can help. As soon as you receive notice of a divorce or decide to file a petition, contact an Indiana divorce lawyer for assistance.