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What should I do after receiving a divorce petition?

Being served with a divorce petition can leave some Californians feeling like they've been hit by a wall of concrete. For others, a divorce filing is no surprise, and it may even be expected. Regardless of how an individual feels about being served with divorce papers, he or she must still figure out how to confront pertinent family law issues. The first step, though, before jumping into property division, child custody, child support, and alimony matters, is to figure out how best to respond to the petition.

There are essentially four ways to respond to a divorce filing. The first way is to do nothing. In this instance, the court will default on the individual, and the petitioner will receive everything that he or she has requested in the petition. The second way is to not respond, but instead enter into a written agreement with one's spouse, delineating how divorce legal issues will be played out moving forward. Although the respondent will still be defaulted, the agreement will be maintained.

The third way option is to file a response to the petition, informing the court that an agreement has been reached between the parties. Here, the court will consider the divorce uncontested, and the matter will proceed relatively quickly. The last option is to file a response in which the respondent takes issue with the assertions made in the divorce petition. In these situations, the matter is considered contested, which means it may be necessary to negotiate and/or litigate those divorce legal issues that are at issue.

Choosing how to respond to a divorce filing is a decision about how the rest of the process will proceed. Therefore, it is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Many California residents find that this is the best time to engage the assistance of a qualified family law attorney who will be able to assist them with developing a legal strategy that seeks to protect their best interests.

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