What Is a Summons With a Notice of Divorce?

By Mary Jane Freeman

Final dissolution of Marriage' paperwork

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Spouses can't file for divorce in secret. The other spouse must be notified of the proceedings so he can properly represent both himself and his interests. As a result, spouses who file for divorce must ensure a summons is delivered to the other spouse, which informs him of the divorce case and how to proceed.

Notifying Spouse of Divorce

When a spouse files for divorce, she does so by filing a petition in local court. The official name may be petition for divorce, complaint for divorce, petition for dissolution of marriage, or something similar. Once filed, the court will return copies to her along, with a summons -- both of which must be served on the other spouse. The summons is a legal document that informs the other spouse that a divorce has been filed, describes what is being asked for, such as alimony or custody, and informs him of his rights and responsibilities concerning the case, and also informs him of any upcoming deadlines.

Response to Summons

In general, the recipient spouse must respond to a petition and summons by filing an answer within a prescribed period of time, usually 20 or 30 days from receipt. He can agree to all, some or none of his spouse's requests. If some or all requests are rejected, the respondent spouse will typically substitute his demands in their place. For example, he may ask the court to award him the family house instead of agreeing to give it to his spouse. After sending in his answer, the court will typically hold a hearing on the matter and issue a divorce decree after resolving any marital issues. If he doesn't respond, the court will likely order a divorce by default. When this happens, the spouse who filed for divorce often gets everything she requested.