A default divorce occurs when one spouse files for a divorce and the other spouse fails to respond to the filing. If the other spouse does not object or otherwise respond to the proceeding, the filing spouse may be granted a default divorce. In most places, judges require filers to prove that the other spouse actually received notification of the divorce proceedings, however. For example, the filing spouse may have to provide proof that his spouse received the divorce papers through certified mail or personal service.
There are many different reasons a person might file a default divorce. For example, if he feels that it is unlikely that his spouse will object or file paperwork responding to the case, he may file this type of divorce. This type of divorce may also be used when one spouse has difficulty contacting the other. Default divorce is not only for getting out of a marriage when the other spouse is unlikely to respond, however. Some divorcing couples decide to end their marriages this way because they agree on the terms of the split and find this a somewhat uncomplicated route to take.
The laws regarding default divorce may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Often, these laws vary in terms of how the non-filing spouse has to be notified, what counts as proof of notification that the spouse received the paperwork, and the length of time the overall process is likely to take. Likewise, jurisdictions may differ when it comes to proceedings in which one spouse cannot locate the other spouse. Most jurisdictions require the filing spouse to make a good faith effort to find his soon-to-be ex-spouse by placing a legal notice of the divorce in a local newspaper and conducting a reasonably thorough search. If a judge is satisfied that the filing spouse made a reasonable effort to locate the missing spouse, the newspaper notice, which may have to be published more than once, may count as service of the divorce papers.
While default divorce can be an easier way to end a marriage in some cases, there may be some drawbacks as well. For example, a spouse may respond late, and a judge may allow this response in the interest of allowing both parties to be heard. In fact, some jurisdictions may allow a spouse to re-open the case for up to 12 months after a default divorce has been granted. He would usually have to demonstrate that he had a good reason for failing to respond, such as being hospitalized, however. Additionally, an ex-spouse may be more likely to follow through with divorce orders concerning things such as paying marital bills if he has a hand in making an agreement or feels that his voice was heard in court.