default divorce

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A default divorce is one where a divorce judgment is entered on the other party's failure to file an answer to the divorce petition. In this situation, the spouse seeking a divorce files a petition for divorce against the other spouse. The defendant spouse fails to answer the petition or appear in court according to a summons, then a default divorce judgment is entered against the defendant spouse.

A default divorce often arises when one spouse is unable to find the other, or when the spouse parties agree to enter a default as part of an uncontested divorce. Usually, if one spouse is unreachable the court will not enter a default divorce until the spouse filing the divorce petition certifies that they have made all reasonable efforts to locate and serve the spouse. The court may require specific steps to attempt service, such as service by publication where notice of the divorce petition is published in a newspaper circulated where the spouse was last known to reside. After these efforts, if the other spouse fails to respond or appear, the default divorce will be entered. However, even after the court enters a default divorce, if the defendant spouse later appears or contests the divorce in a certain amount of time, they can ask the court to overturn the default judgment. 

In the situation where the spouses agree to a default divorce, the spouses typically agree ahead of time on all the major issues and settle affairs between them. Then only one spouse files for divorce, and the other does not respond and the court enters a default judgment of divorce. Spouses may take this approach to avoid court fees, or where both parties agree to divorce but one spouse wants no part in the process.

[Last updated in September of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]