When beginning a domestic relations action, a Complaint and Summons must first be served to the respondent. This provides notice of the action to the respondent and also details what type of action the petition is bringing to the court.
Once a party is served with a Complaint and Summons for divorce, the respondent has 30 days in which to respond. Therefore, it is imperative for a respondent to act quickly in not only obtaining an attorney but also gathering the information necessary to submit a proper answer to the court within the deadline. The answer is the respondent’s response to the Complaint and Summons. The purpose is to respond to the petitioner’s allegations and to assert any defenses or counterclaims that the respondent may have against the petitioner.
However, if the respondent fails to file an answer to the Complaint and Summons or fails to deliver other defensive pleadings within 30 days of being served, he or she will waive all future notices regarding the trial of the case. This includes the time and place of the trial, entry of judgment, and any notification of the decision. Therefore, it is very important for a respondent to file pleadings or a judgment may be entered against them without their knowledge. It may even be difficult or impossible for the defendant to reopen a case or have the judgment set aside after the fact. Next, the defenses of insufficient service, lack of personal jurisdiction, and improper venue must be raised before or at the time of pleading. If these are not raised in the time limit, then the option to use them later on will be lost.
Even though a respondent may waive the rights to receive notices regarding the case if he or she fails to meet this deadline, a respondent’s right to demand a jury trial or to fully defend against the petitioner’s claims for divorce or alimony will not be waived. The respondent may still submit defensive pleadings, including counterclaims, at any time before a final judgment is entered. Under Georgia law, a default judgment will not be granted in a divorce action because of Georgia’s public policy favors the continuation of marriage.
On the other hand, in domestic relations cases that do not involve actions for divorce, such as child support or child custody, a default judgment may be entered. In these cases, if a default judgment is entered, the petitioner is entitled to a verdict and judgment in his or her favor. But if the respondent’s allegations are not well-pled, are the result of forced inference, or are erroneous conclusions of law, a default judgment will not result in the admission of these allegations.
If you have received a Complaint and Summons, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. Our team will work with you to discuss this pleading and the options available for your specific case. We will represent your needs properly and in a timely manner.