Divorce can be a challenging time in your life. This is particularly true if the decision to split up isn’t yours. It’s easy to want to avoid talking about divorce or thinking about the process, at all. You may even want to ignore the divorce papers that you’ve been served. The divorce can’t happen if you don’t sign on the dotted line, right?

Not necessarily. Ignoring the fact that your spouse has filed a petition for divorce may delay the process, but it won’t necessarily stop it from happening. In fact, putting the papers aside could actually do much more harm than good. It’s always best to be involved in your divorce, even if you’re not happy about the split.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

There are two parties in a divorce. The spouse that files for divorce is known as the petitioner. The spouse that is served with divorce papers is known as the respondent. How a divorce will unfold will depend on how the respondent reacts after they’ve been served.

Contested Divorce: A divorce is contested when the respondent doesn’t agree with all or some of the terms of the split. This may include issues with how property is divided, who gets custody of the kids, and spousal support obligations. As the respondent, you have to make it very clear that you contest the divorce. The best way to do this is by filing an answer to the divorce papers with the court. Filing your answer will classify your case as a contested divorce.

Uncontested Divorce: A divorce is uncontested when either (a) the respondent doesn’t sign or respond to the divorce papers, or (b) the respondent agrees to all of the terms without issue. When a divorce is uncontested, you lose the right to negotiate for terms that you believe are in your best interest.

Why Should I Sign the Divorce Papers?

Divorces are complicated. This is true even if you’ve only been married for a short period of time. Why? A judge will want to see that you’ve fully addressed certain issues that impact your split. These issues, known as the “terms” of your divorce, include:

The spouse that files for divorce outlines how they would like these issues to be resolved. In some cases, these terms will be fair to both spouses. In other cases, the petitioning spouse may try to secure terms that are much more favorable to them. They may ask for sole custody of the kids, demand ownership of the property you value most, and request expensive financial support. The only way to negotiate terms to your liking is by responding to the divorce papers.

You typically have 30 days to respond to divorce papers. A judge can issue what is known as a default judgment if you fail to do so. A default judgment means that the terms proposed by your spouse will be accepted. You’ll lose the opportunity to fight for terms that are more favorable to you. The divorce will be finalized despite your efforts to make it stop.


Have you recently been served with divorce papers in Los Angeles? Understanding what the papers say and how you should respond can be challenging. Your divorce will affect many aspects of your life, so it’s important to consider your response carefully. Our Los Angeles family law attorneys can help. Call us to schedule a free consultation and learn more.