Your Spouse Did Not Respond to Your California Divorce Petition?


When going through a divorce, it is essential to be aware of the legal procedures involved. After serving the petition to your spouse, there is a crucial step in the process that often confuses many individuals—the concept of “default.” In this article, we will explain what happens after you serve the petition, what a default is, and the necessary steps to take if your spouse fails to respond within the given timeframe.

Serving the Petition and the Response Deadline

After you’ve filed for divorce and served the petition to your spouse, the clock starts ticking. Your spouse has 30 calendar days to respond formally. This response is known as the “Response” (FL-120) and must be filed with the court. If the thirtieth day falls on a weekend or a holiday, your spouse has until the next business day to file the Response.

What is a Default?

If the statutory time frame has elapsed, and your spouse fails to file the Response within the given 30-day period, you can proceed with a Request to Enter Default (Judicial Counsel Form FL-165). This means your spouse is in “default” for not responding to the divorce petition within the required time.

Preparing a Request to Enter Default

To initiate the process, you need to prepare a Request to Enter Default, along with the necessary accompanying documents. Keep in mind that this process can take some time, so it’s crucial to be patient and meticulous in its preparation.

Setting Aside Defaults

Even if your spouse has defaulted, they can still come back at a later date and request the default to be set aside. In most cases, judges tend to grant such requests, regardless of the reason for failing to file the Response. Therefore, it’s essential to be prepared for this possibility and understand the potential implications.

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Communication with Your Spouse

Before proceeding with a Request to Enter Default, it may be wise to inform your spouse about your intention to do so. By notifying them in advance, they might choose to file their Response, thus avoiding the need for additional legal actions and potential delays.

Caution About Defaults

If you proceed with taking your spouse’s default, they will not be required to prepare their financial disclosures. These disclosures are crucial for obtaining orders related to support or division of debts. If you need your spouse’s financial information, the most straightforward way to obtain it is by having them complete and serve their required disclosures.

Preparing Financial Disclosures

If you and your spouse are working together to reach a final agreement or participating in mediation, consider notifying them about your intent to file a default. This step may save them from having to file a Response or other documents and paying filing fees.

Required Forms for Financial Relief

If you have asked for any monetary orders such as child support, spousal support, or attorney fees, you will need to file either the Income and Expense Declaration or the Financial Statement. This is necessary for the judge to assess your financial situation and make appropriate decisions.

The Property Declaration

The Property Declaration is essential when there is a request for the exchange of property, be it personal property, real property, employment benefits, or business interests. In a default action, this form is typically filed, while it is not required in uncontested or contested actions.

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Finalizing the Default Process

Once you submit the Request to Enter Default, the court will either approve or deny your request. Upon receiving an endorsed filed copy, it’s essential to serve a copy on the other party. At this point, you can start preparing your final Judgment packet.


Understanding the process of default in divorce proceedings is crucial for individuals going through a divorce. After serving the petition, if your spouse fails to respond within the designated timeframe, you can proceed with a Request to Enter Default. However, it’s essential to communicate with your spouse and be prepared for the possibility of defaults being set aside. Additionally, ensuring the proper filing of financial disclosures is critical in obtaining necessary orders and judgments.


  1. Can my spouse contest the default after it has been entered? Yes, your spouse can request the court to set aside the default even after it has been entered.
  2. Do I need an attorney to file a default? While you can file a default on your own, it’s advisable to seek legal advice to ensure all procedures are correctly followed.
  3. Is mediation required before filing a default? Mediation is not mandatory before filing a default, but it may be helpful in reaching a mutual agreement.
  4. What if my spouse files a late Response? If your spouse files a Response after the 30-day deadline, it will likely be accepted, but be prepared to provide reasons for the delay.
  5. Can I ask for financial relief in a default judgment? Yes, you can request financial relief in a default judgment by properly filing the required financial forms.
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