How to Respond to a Divorce Complaint

By Anna Assad

Lawyers researching in a library

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You must respond to a divorce complaint to preserve your rights and have a voice in the proceedings. If you don't prepare a response and submit it to the court by the date shown on the complaint, you might lose your right to challenge the allegations in the court. When the other party fails to file a response, the court may grant the petitioner a judgment by default, giving him everything he asked for in the complaint.

Locate the deadline for the response on the divorce papers. Deadlines vary by area.

Contact the court in which your spouse filed the divorce papers. The court should be identified on the papers you received. Ask for the form used to file an answer to a divorce complaint and the court instructions.

Read over the divorce complaint. You typically must address all allegations set forth in the complaint. Each allegation is typically numbered or lettered. Make a list of all allegations you agree to and the allegations you deny. Identify each allegation by its number or letter on your list.

Review the allegations you deny and gather disputing facts. You must give facts that support your denial. For example, if item 4 of the complaint alleges there are no marital debts when there is outstanding debt, locate proof of the debt and its current balance so you can use the information on your response.

Check the court instructions for allegations you agree with, or admit to. Follow the procedure on the response for all allegations you agree with. Each item on your response should be its own paragraph.

Check the court instructions for the rules regarding allegations you deny. You typically must cite the allegation number or letter and state the facts clearly on the response. For example, for a no-marital-debt statement when there is debt, you would deny the allegation and state the debt types, account numbers, current balances and date opened.

Compare the completed response to the petition. Make sure the letters or numbers on your response correspond to the right allegations on the complaint. Verify you addressed all allegations.

Submit the response to the court. You typically must go the court handling the divorce proceedings in person to file the response and send a copy of the response to the other party immediately after filing.

Items you will need

  • Response form

  • Divorce complaint


Your court might require you file a counterclaim, or petition of your own based on the allegations, at the same tie you file the response. Check with the court for instructions and the forms you need for a counterclaim.

Consult with a family attorney if you aren't comfortable handling the response yourself.