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What Is A Default Divorce Judgment And When Do You Need One?

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Some divorces are completed by default. A default judgment is a legally binding judgment entered by the court in favor of only one spouse. A default judgment is possible when the Respondent (the spouse responding to the divorce petition) fails to respond within the applicable amount of time.

If your spouse fails to respond to your petition for divorce within 20 days, you may have a right to request a default divorce. Talk to an Orlando divorce attorney to find out whether or not you can get a default divorce judgment in your particular case.

How to Obtain a Default Judgment in Florida?

If the Respondent fails to submit an answer to the Petitioner’s divorce petition within 20 days of the date the petition was filed, the Petitioner can proceed with their divorce case. In order to obtain a default judgment, the Petitioner will need to prepare the following documentation:

  • copies of the pleadings
  • a copy of the divorce petition
  • an affidavit of a certified process server or sheriff’s deputy establishing that the Respondent was not served

Additionally, in order to obtain a default judgment in Florida, the Petitioner will have to submit a Motion for Default, in which they must provide the following information:

  1. The steps the Petitioner has taken to serve the Respondent
  2. How many days have passed since the Respondent was served
  3. A statement requesting a default divorce judgment

After the motion is submitted, the clerk of the county court in which the motion was filed will schedule a final hearing where a judge will determine whether or not to grant a default divorce.

The judge may rule in favor of the Petitioner even if the Respondent fails to attend the hearing. The Respondent has a limited amount of time to respond before a default divorce judgment is granted. A default judgment cannot be challenged unless specific criteria are met.

Can a Respondent Challenge a Default Divorce Judgment?

A Respondent may be able to challenge a default divorce judgment if they can prove that they had a legitimate excuse for not responding to the petition within the applicable amount of time.

The Respondent may be able to overturn a default judgment if:

  • They made a mistake (e.g., they thought they responded to the petition but did not);
  • They could not respond due to circumstances beyond their control;
  • They were outside the country for work purposes when the papers were served;
  • They were not living at the location where the divorce petition was served;
  • They were incarcerated when the petition was served; or
  • They could argue that they were not properly served the divorce petition, which prevented them from responding within the applicable timeline.

In addition to establishing a legitimate excuse for not responding to the divorce petition in a timely manner, the Respondent must prove that granting a default judgment would be unfair because they could prevail on the contested issues of their divorce.

The Respondent has limited time to override a default divorce judgment after it has been granted. If a Florida court ruled in your spouse’s favor in a default divorce judgment, do not hesitate to contact a skilled lawyer to change the outcome of your case.

Schedule a case review with our Orlando divorce attorney at the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. Call 407-521-7171 to schedule a consultation.

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