How to Respond to Being Served Divorce Papers

By Mike Broemmel

Updated July 21, 2017

Depressed girl with documents

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Once served with divorce papers, you have legal obligations you must tend to in fairly short speed. Divorce papers include both a petition or complaint for divorce, a document that outlines the claims being made by your spouse. The papers also include a summons, a form from the court where the divorce case was filed. The summons sets a deadline by which you must file a response to the divorce petition, according to the American Bar Association Section of Family Law. Protecting your interests in a divorce case requires you to understand how you must respond to being served divorce papers.

Obtain an answer or response form from the clerk of the court where the divorce case was filed. In nearly all jurisdictions, you obtain this type of form from the clerk's office. In some locations, the court maintains a website from which you can download this form.

Fill out the answer, setting forth your responses to the accusations and contentions made by your spouse. The clerk provides instructions to assist with this process. Sign the document and obtain a notarization of your signature.

Return the completed answer or response to the clerk of the court for filing. Deliver the document in person or mail it to the court clerk. If you elect to mail the form, use certified delivery, return receipt requested. This type of mailing allows you to confirm receipt of the answer or response by the clerk.


You maintain the right to represent yourself in a divorce case. Keep in mind that this type of proceeding involves complicated statutes and courtroom procedures. Your best interests likely are best served if you hire a lawyer. The American Bar Association provides resources designed to help you find an attorney.


Verify the deadline on the summons by which you must file an answer or response to the divorce papers. If you fail to respond to the divorce papers in a timely manner, you run the risk of the court awarding your spouse a default judgment. A default judgment is a ruling in your spouse's favor with no consideration of your position on the divorce-related issues.