When a divorce petition is filed with a New York court, the petitioner — typically via his or her attorney — ensures that it is served. Legally, this means that the divorce petition has been delivered to the other spouse. The spouse who has been served this is known as the “defendant” or “respondent” in the divorce process. The defendant must answer this petition within an allotted amount of time — usually around three weeks.

It is helpful to think of the entire divorce process as a lawsuit — it technically is — so when an individual is served with a petition of this nature, it is very similar to being sued. That is, the individual must respond to and address any and all allegations included within the petition within a certain time frame — often 30 days. If the response is not sent within the proper time frame, the individual will lose the right to argue his or her position when it comes to issues typical of divorces, including child custody and property division.

In a divorce petition, the respondent’s answer acknowledges the receipt of the petition, as well as stating either agreement or disagreement with it. Specifically, the answer should state the individual’s position for each of the filing spouse’s proposals and statements. This includes information regarding one another, their marriage, child support requests and property division.

If the divorce petition is served but the respondent does not answer it, the court will typically assume that the defendant agreed to the divorce as defined by the terms of the filing spouse. In this case, the respondent’s failure to answer is considered a “default,” which means that, in failing to answer the petition, the respondent waives his or her right to contest any aspect of the divorce. When New York residents are either contemplating divorce or have been served a divorce petition, they typically consult an experienced divorce attorney in order to seek assistance with the ensuing legal proceedings.

Source: FindLaw, “Answering the Divorce/Dissolution Petition“, Accessed on April 4, 2016