Respond to divorce papers
To respond to divorce or legal separation papers (a Petition), your first step is to fill out a Response form. This tells the court how you want things like custody of children, property and support handled.
Before you start
Get familiar with a few key concepts
The way you fill out these forms will impact the outcome of your case, so it’s important to do it correctly. The forms include some terms that may be unfamiliar to you. You can read more about these terms:
- Community and separate property
- Date of Separation
- Spousal support
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
You can also see a timeline of all of the steps at the start of a divorce case.
If you don't respond by the deadline
If you don’t file a response within 30 days of getting the Petition form, your spouse or domestic partner can ask for a default. If there's a default, the court won't let you file a response and can decide the case without you.
Consider getting help
Get free, in-person help from the court. Learn more about the court’s Family Law Facilitator or Self-Help Center.
Hire a lawyer to help you with all or a part of your case. It’s possible to go through this process without a lawyer. But, if you have a lot of property or debt, you may wish to hire a lawyer.
How to respond to a divorce Petition
Fill out the Response form
- Fill out the form called Response — Marriage/Domestic Partnership (form FL-120).
This form asks for basic information about your marriage and the type of orders you want the court to be able to make.
Since you are the one responding to the other spouse filing for divorce, you’re called the Respondent. Your spouse is the Petitioner.
If you and your spouse have children together, you will also need to fill out:
- Declaration under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (form FL-105)
This form tells the court where your children were born and live and if there are any other court cases involving them. You must fill out this form if your children are under 18.
Figure out if you need the court to decide something right away
You may need to ask for something right away, rather than waiting until your divorce is final. For example:
You may need to decide where your children will live
You may need financial support from your spouse
You may need to figure out who stays in your home or pays bills
There's a process to ask the court to decide by requesting a temporary order. You’ll need to fill out more forms.
Find out if you have any local forms to complete
Some courts have additional local forms they require you to use.
Contact your court clerk’s office, check your court’s website, or talk to your Family Law Facilitator or Self-Help Center to ask if they have any local forms you need to use.
Make copies of your forms
After you’ve filled out the forms and signed the Response, make 2 copies of the Response and any other forms.
Respond to divorce papers
Once you’ve completed the forms and made copies, you need to have someone deliver (serve) your Response and file your papers with the court within 30 days of getting the Petition form.
File your response
Get step-by-step instructions for filing papers with the court
Serve your response
Get step-by-step instructions for serving papers
Go to an overview of the divorce process
Get an overview of the divorce process in California, learn what to expect, and get step-by-step instructions for each part
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