Because you and your spouse were having problems for a while, it may not have come as a surprise when he or she announced that the two of you needed some space. You may have anticipated a short separation where your spouse spent a few days at a friend or family member’s house so you could each find ways to work on your relationship. However, as time went on, it became clear that your spouse had no intention of returning to the marital home.
You may have known that your spouse intended to file for divorce, but being served with the divorce petition was likely still difficult for you. The formal and legal nature of the papers may have felt sterile and detached, and you may have wondered how your relationship reached this point. Nonetheless, you now have the responsibility of responding to the petition.
Do you have to respond?
Strictly speaking, you do not necessarily have to respond to the divorce petition. However, that does not mean that a lack of response will halt any divorce proceedings. Instead, without your direct response, the court will assume that you agree to the divorce terms set forth in the petition, and you will not have the opportunity to argue for different terms.
How can you respond?
If you choose to respond, which is typically advisable, you inform the court that you received the petition, and you provide your responses to the other party’s proposed terms. For example, your spouse may have laid out terms in the petition regarding property division, and you may not agree with those terms. Your response gives you the opportunity to deny the presented terms and provide your own. The petition can address various details that deserve your attention in addition to property division, like child custody and monetary support post-divorce.
Receiving and having to respond to a divorce petition can certainly feel overwhelming. You typically have a few weeks to respond before the court files a default response on your behalf. As a result, you should take some time to carefully review the petition, consider your stances of the proposed terms and determine what terms you would like to provide. Working with a knowledgeable North Carolina attorney could help you understand your rights and options when it comes to handling this situation.