Responding to a Divorce Summons and Petition

If your spouse filed for divorce and you are served with a Summons and a Petition, your spouse is the petitioner and you are the respondent. As the respondent, you are responsible for filing a response to the summons and petition within 30 days of being served with the Summons.

The Summons (FL-110) explains that you are being sued and need to appear (file a response) in the case. The Summons also provides a list of actions that you cannot take since the case has been filed. The Petition (FL-100) tells you what the petitioner is asking for. (e.g.: child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, community, and separate property, etc.). If you have minor children, the petitioner will also have filed a UCCJEA (FL-105). A UCCJEA, short for Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, states the child’s full name, date of birth, and place of residence for the past 5 years, in addition to listing who they lived with and when. The Petition, Summons, and UCCJEA are often referred to as the initial pleadings.

When it comes to appearing or filing a response, the California Courts explain that you have several options:

  • You can file a response with the court and come to an agreement with your spouse about all the issues at hand.
  • You can file a response with the court in which you disagree with what your spouse is asking for.
  • You can do nothing — which means that whatever your spouse is asking for in the Petition will probably be granted. The judge will base his or her decision about property, support, and custody, and visitation (if you have children together) only on what your spouse has requested in the Petition. This situation is called a “true default” because you are “defaulting” by not responding and are not involved at all.
  • You can do nothing because you have a written notarized agreement with your spouse or domestic partner where you both agree to end your marriage or domestic partnership. And you agree about other things like the division of your property and your debt, spousal or partner support, and, if you have children together, child support and custody and visitation orders. In this case, you also “default” because you are not filing a response, but you are having a say in the final outcome because you are reaching a written agreement with your spouse or domestic partner. So this is a “default with agreement” case.

If you have questions or concerns about responding to initial pleadings, please contact Morales Law, P.C. for a complimentary consultation. THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Factual circumstances will vary and require specific procedures. We are Santa Barbara Divorce Lawyers. This is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon prior to, or in place of, consulting with legal counsel. Morales Law, P.C. can be reached at (805)-422-7966 or at

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