How quickly do I have to respond to a summons in regards to a divorce?

UPDATED: Aug 1, 2011

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How quickly do I have to respond to a summons in regards to a divorce?

The summons says, “You are summoned to appear before this court and to file you pleading to the petition within 30 days. If you fail to file your pleading, judgment by default may be taken.” What is “file your pleading”?

Asked on August 1, 2011 Missouri


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You have thirty days from the date you were served with the documents to file your answer to the petition for divorce.  File your pleading means filing your answer to the petition with the court.  When you file your answer, attach a proof of service.  The proof of service verifies the date of mailing to your spouse.  You can either use a court form proof of service or you can write your own.  If you write your own proof of service, it just says that you are over 18 and the attached documents were sent via first class mail unless specified otherwise to ________ (name and address of spouse) on __________ (date).  You sign the proof of service at the bottom under penalty of perjury.  The date you sign should be the same as the mailing date and the same date you file your documents with the court.

As for your answer to the petition, there may be a short, simple court form for you to complete.  If that isn't the case, and you don't have an attorney, look for the general format for an answer at the law library.  The law librarian can help you find it.

If you don't file the answer with the court and serve it on your spouse within thirty days from the date it was served on you, a default judgment will be entered against you.  If that happens, you will need to file a motion to set aside the default.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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