Wednesday, September 20, 2006

#8 Answering the Divorce Complaint.

By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970

Divorce, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer.

Do you need help now? Call 810 235-1970 !


After a divorce complaint is filed with the court, the Plaintiff (the spouse who filed , usually through his or her lawyer) makes sure that the petition is "served" (legally delivered) on the other spouse. The spouse who has been served with the divorce complaint is called the Defendant in the divorce process. He or she must respond to ("answer") the complaint within a certain time ( three weeks or 21 days if the Defendant lives in Michigan 28 days if outside Michigan).

Attorneys often make informal agreements to extend the filing date of the answer. If acted on quickly most Family Court Judges in Genesee County MI will set aside the default in divorce actions.

It might help to think of the divorce process as a lawsuit (which it technically is), so that when you are served with a divorce complaint it is like being sued. You must respond to the allegations in the petition within a short time (21 days), or you will lose your right to argue your position on issues like property division and child custody.

The answer filed should be bland and a counter claim withheld if there is a calm negotiating environment. Words do hurt, the anger reflected in emotionally answered pleadings will affect the other parties willingness to negotiate and after the divorce as parenting keeps the parties in contact will impact the children of this divorce.

Preliminary discussions might include marriage counseling with a pastor or another professional if reconciliation is a possibility. Also discussed should be an interim arraignment , a temporary order , and dispute resolution alternatives.

What Does the Answer Contain?

In a nutshell, the answer acknowledges the Defendants receipt of the divorce complaint, and states agreement or disagreement with the complaint. As with the complaint, the answer filed can influence the tone and direction of the process.

More specifically, the Defendants answer should clearly state his or her position on the filing spouse's statements and proposals found in the divorce complaint - including information about the spouses and marriage; and requests for child custody, property division, and support.

Agreement or disagreement with the information and demands contained in the complaint can often be declared by stating "admitted" or "denied," in sections numbered to correspond with the statements or demands made in the petition.

For example, assume that at Paragraph 3 of the complaint for divorce, the filing spouse declares that he or she is entitled to sole physical custody of the couple's children. If the Defendant feels that he or she is (at minimum) entitled to joint custody, then the Defendant would make that position (and reasons supporting that position) clear in the answer. The Defendant will state "the allegations in Paragraph 3 are admitted or denied." The Defendant would then be able to support this denial with a brief statement, and make his or her own custody demand in the answer.

The answer must be given to the Plaintiff directly or through an attorney. You do not need a process server you can mail it.

Failure to Answer -- Default

If the divorce complaint is properly served on the Defendant, and he or she doesn't answer it, the court will likely assume that the Defendant agrees to the divorce on the terms that the filing spouse set in the complaint, and a "default" will be entered in the case -- meaning that by failing to answer the divorce complaint, the Defendant's right to argue any part of the divorce has ended.

If a default is entered against a spouse who failed to answer a complaint, he or she may be able to ask the court to remove or "set aside" the default so that the divorce can be contested, but the Defendant will need to show sound legal reasons that justify such a move.


By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970

Divorce, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer.

Do you need help now? Call 810 235-1970 !

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