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: 

You can also see a timeline of all of the steps at the start of a divorce case.

This website has information to walk you through the basic process. But, you may need more help or legal advice. 

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. 

If it's been more than 30 days, check with the court to see if your spouse got a default. If there isn’t a default, you can still file Response. If there is a default, talk to a lawyer or a Self-Help Center to learn more about your options.
 

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.

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  • 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. 

    Learn how to ask for a temporary order

  • 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

What's next?

Once you’ve completed the forms and made copies, you’ll file them with the court and share your response with your spouse by serving the documents.

 

You can do these steps in any sequence.