The “Response” is the legal document filed to respond to or answer allegations in a family law petition, including a petition for dissolution of marriage. If no response is filed, the party who filed the petition may be able to request entry of default judgment to award everything requested in the petition. A response typically addresses each allegation in the petition and admits or denies its truth. It also can include additional facts not alleged in the petition. If the responding party is served in Arizona, he or she typically has twenty days to file a response. If the responding party is served outside of Arizona, the response period is typically extended to thirty days.
Filing a Response to a Divorce Petition
The process for filing a response is similar to filing any other legal document. Some of the Arizona courts offer forms or, alternatively, many progressive family law firms offer affordable, unbundled legal document preparation. Once prepared, the response is filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court. The responding party pays the applicable filing fee unless he or she qualifies for fee waiver or deferral. Copies of the response are delivered to the assigned judge and to the party who filed the petition. Unlike the petition, the response need not be “served,” only delivered, so US Mail usually suffices.
Affirmative Claims and Defenses
Certain defenses must be raised before filing a response. These include lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, insufficiency of process, and failure to state a claim. These defenses are grounds for a motion to dismiss, a legal process used to ask the court to dismiss the case altogether. These defenses are waived if not alleged before a response is filed.
Likewise, any additional claims made on the responding party’s behalf not already alleged in the petition must be pleaded in the response. Our sample response includes examples of affirmative claims.
We also created a fictional sample divorce to provide more comprehensive insight into the procedure and common strategies employed by divorce attorneys. This series will be updated continually as the case “proceeds” and will include samples of most of the common pleadings and motions used during a divorce. Many of these legal documents can be modified to be used in other types of family law cases.
When to Hire a Divorce Attorney
When first confronted with divorce, even before filing a response, you should decide whether you need to hire a divorce attorney. This can be time sensitive because the petition and the response can dictate the course of the litigation. If you hire an attorney after filing a response, the attorney may be bound to the consequences of what you filed. It would be easy for us to fearmonger and promise failure to anyone who does not hire a divorce attorney. But that would be dishonest. The truth is that not every divorce requires an attorney. Some cases are very simple and straightforward. However, even if your case is one of those, it never hurts to take advantage of a free consultation with a qualified divorce attorney. The consultation can help you better understand the divorce process and answer any questions you have about applicable law.