A contentious separation is never easy. When you file your divorce petition and serve your spouse the papers, but they ignore or avoid the petition, it can make the situation even more frustrating. When you face a stressful divorce process like this, you may be able to obtain a default divorce, and a St. Louis default divorce lawyer can help you do so.

Why Would a Spouse Refuse to Respond to Divorce Papers?

Some respondent spouses may ignore the divorce papers they are served, while others may make significant efforts to avoid being served the papers in the first place. Many spouses may wrongly believe or want to believe that they can avoid the divorce process by avoiding the papers. Other spouses may be maliciously hoping to make the process of divorce as drawn-out and stressful as possible.

Whatever the reason, ignoring the divorce papers will not prevent the divorce. Instead, the respondent spouse may forgo their right to have any say in the process.

If your spouse is refusing to respond to divorce papers, it can be helpful to attempt to talk with them before filing for a default divorce. Open communication may determine financial fears or other concerns that can be remedied together.

Unfortunately, this is not always possible, and a spouse may be contentious, uncooperative, or even abusive. Always take care of yourself in these situations. If you have made a good-faith effort to serve your spouse papers, you can file a default divorce.

What Happens in a Default Divorce?

Once the filing spouse files the petition for divorce, the court summons and divorce papers should be served to their spouse. These papers include the spouse’s requests for division of property, spousal support, and decisions regarding child custody. There are several options for having an official or other adult serve the respondent spouse these papers.

In some cases, the respondent spouse may avoid being served at all. If the filing spouse has made a reasonable attempt to serve the papers in person, the court may allow them to serve their spouse through publication.

In Missouri, the respondent spouse has 30 days to respond to the summons. The response will include the spouse’s own wishes for property division and other divorce aspects. If the filing spouse receives no response, they can request a default divorce.

This request is also served to the respondent spouse, along with the date and time of the default hearing. It is in the respondent spouse’s interest to respond to the initial summons or the petition for a default divorcee or lose all say in the divorce’s outcome.

The Default Hearing

If the default hearing is held and the respondent spouse does not show or respond, the judge will likely grant a default divorce. This means that the filing spouse will obtain everything they requested in their initial divorce petition. The respondent spouse will have no say in how marital property is divided, whether spousal support is awarded, or how custody of children is decided.

If the respondent spouse does appear for the default hearing, it is unlikely the judge will grant a default judgment. Instead, the judge will likely provide the respondent spouse additional time to file their response petition, and the divorce will then proceed as a typical contested divorce.

Once a default decision is made, the respondent spouse can motion to vacate the decision. The court typically prefers both spouses to have a say in the divorce, especially when there are children involved. However, a spouse requesting to vacate must have a good reason why they did not respond to the summons or default proceedings.


Q: How Long Does a Default Divorce Take in Missouri?

A: A default divorce will likely take more than 60 days to finalize. The filing spouse must wait at least 30 days after serving their spouse the divorce papers. If the filing spouse has made a good-faith effort to get a response from their spouse, a date for a default hearing is set, and the respondent spouse is provided time to respond to or appear at this hearing.

If the spouse does not appear, the judge may follow through on a default judgment. The divorce is finalized 30 days after the judgment is signed. Default divorces typically take much less time than a contested divorce, as spouses do not have to negotiate or advocate for their interests in court.

Q: What Happens After You Enter a Default Divorce?

A: The respondent spouse who failed to answer the petition does not prevent the divorce by ignoring it. Instead, they lose their ability to advocate for their interests or wishes and have no say in the divorce’s outcome.

The filing spouse in a default divorce will have their requests in the divorce petition granted regarding child custody, property division, alimony, and child support. The filing party is not allowed to change these requests after it is clear the divorce is going to be defaulted. The court may vacate a default divorce, but it’s important for a respondent spouse to respond to a divorce filing sooner if they want a say in the divorce.

Q: What Is Marital Abandonment in Missouri?

A: Marital abandonment in Missouri means one spouse has left the other for a period of six months prior to the divorce being filed, and no support was provided during this time. Although marital abandonment can’t be used as a reason for divorce, as Missouri is a no-fault state, it can still impact certain aspects of a divorce.

Additionally, if the respondent spouse claims that the marriage is not irretrievably broken, actions constituting spousal abandonment will prove to the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Q: What Is the No-Fault Divorce Law in Missouri?

A: In Missouri, spouses can file a no-fault divorce, which means the grounds for divorce are that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The filing party does not have to list a reason for the divorce beyond that. In some states, no-fault or fault-based divorces are possible, enabling a spouse to file on the grounds of abandonment, adultery, or abuse.

This is not the case in Missouri. Divorces are filed on no-fault grounds. If the respondent spouse disagrees that the marriage is irretrievably broken, additional factors may be used to determine if the marriage is broken.

Contact Stange Law Firm

It can be hard to know how to proceed with a divorce with an uncooperative spouse. Contact the experienced St. Louis divorce attorneys at Stange Law Firm today for legal guidance.