Divorce Options, Divorce Solutions

The Perils of Ignoring a Divorce Complaint

by | Oct 16, 2023 | Divorce

Navigating through the turbulent waters of divorce can be emotionally draining and legally complex. When a spouse is served with a divorce Complaint in New Jersey, it is imperative to respond within promptly and adequately to avoid potential pitfalls. Litigants are provided 35 days to file a responsive pleading.  Ignoring a Complaint can lead to a cascade of issues, particularly in the realms of financial settlements and child custody. This blog explores the possible consequences that may unfold if a person does not respond to a divorce complaint in the Garden State.

  1. **Default Judgment:**

When a person fails to respond to a divorce complaint within the stipulated 35 days in New Jersey, the court may enter a default judgment against them. This means that the court may grant the divorce and all the requests of the filing spouse without any input or objection from the non-responding party. The consequences of a default judgment can be severe and far-reaching, especially in terms of financial settlements and child custody arrangements.

  1. **Financial Repercussions:**

**Asset Division:** In the absence of a response to a divorce complaint, the court is likely to divide marital assets in accordance with the requests of the Plaintiff spouse, which may not be equitable or fair to the non-responding party.

**Alimony:** The filing spouse may be awarded alimony as per their request without any contestation, which could be financially burdensome for the non-responding party.  Without the input of the non-responding spouse, the Court can only rely on the information provided by the Plaintiff in making a determination on support.

**Debt Allocation:** Debts accrued during the marriage may be assigned disproportionately, potentially placing an unfair financial burden on the non-responding spouse.  There may have been debts that were incurred after a separation or without the non-responding party’s knowledge that may be included in the debt allocation.

**Legal Fees:** The court may order the non-responding spouse to pay for the filing spouse’s legal fees, further straining their financial stability.

  1. **Child Custody and Support:**

Ignoring a divorce complaint can also have detrimental effects on child custody and support obligations. The court may award sole custody to the filing spouse, limiting the non-responding party’s rights and access to their children.

**Custody:** The filing spouse may be granted sole physical and legal custody, meaning they have exclusive rights to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare, education, and living arrangements.  It may also change the current arrangements that the parents already had established, causing upheaval for the non-responding spouse and the children.

**Child Support:** The non-responding spouse may be mandated to pay child support as per the filing spouse’s request, utilizing inaccurate or outdated income information for the calculation per the Guidelines.  There may also be additional expenses imposed on the non-responding parent that were not previously discussed or established.

**Parenting Time:** The non-responding party might be allocated limited parenting time to the detriment of their relationship with their children.  The other parent may also be subjected to incurring greater costs in requirements regarding drop off and pick up of the children for parenting time.

  1. **Legal and Emotional Ramifications:**

Beyond the tangible consequences, ignoring a divorce complaint can also have legal and emotional ramifications. The non-responding spouse may be perceived negatively in any future legal proceedings due to their initial non-cooperation. They may be assessed attorney fees and costs associated with applications to vacate the default or set aside the final judgment.  Additionally, the stress and anxiety stemming from unresolved legal matters and strained relationships with children can take a toll on one’s mental health and overall well-being.

Addressing a divorce complaint promptly and judiciously is crucial to safeguarding one’s financial, parental, and emotional interests. Engaging with the process allows for negotiation, mediation, and the possibility of reaching amicable agreements regarding equitable distribution, support, and child custody. Ignoring a divorce complaint not only jeopardizes these aspects but can be expensive to undue and may lead to the incursion of unnecessary legal fees. Seeking legal counsel and participating actively in the divorce proceedings is paramount to navigating through this challenging life event with minimal damage and ensuring a fair outcome for all parties involved.

Note: This blog does not provide legal advice. For specific guidance, it is recommended to consult with a professional attorney familiar with New Jersey divorce laws.