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What Is Ex Parte Divorce?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Divorce proceedings often mirror the relationship the couple had while married. Calm and collaborative relationships tend to end the same way, while wild and fiery romances go down in flames. And in some cases, one of the parties isn't too keen on breaking up.

A contested divorce can take many forms, from a spouse ignoring or refusing to sign divorce papers to scorched earth litigation. That's why many courts allow what is known as "ex parte" divorce, or divorce based solely on one spouse's filing and in the jurisdiction where that spouse lives, though it is valid anywhere. Let's take a closer look.

Ex Parte and Your Ex

Ex parte divorces normally arise in two scenarios:

  1. Where one spouse has moved out of state, or otherwise can't be found or served with divorce papers; or
  2. Where one spouse is completely uncooperative in the divorce and fails to respond to filings.

In either case, an ex parte divorce gives the filing spouse a path to a valid divorce, despite the absence or obstinacy of the other spouse. But there are some requirements you may have to meet in order to file.

Most states have certain minimum residency requirements for divorce filings. So if you've moved out-of-state following your breakup, you may need to establish residency in your new state for a certain amount of time before you can file for divorce. If your spouse has moved out-of-state, refuses to respond to the filing, or cannot be located, your divorce may be delayed while you provide sufficient notice. These notice requirements can vary by state, but rest assured your divorce will be valid anywhere.

Default Divorce

If it's a matter of your soon-to-be ex flat out ignoring the divorce filing, you can gain a divorce by default. Requesting a default divorce also has its own requirements, which may include proof of service (that your spouse received the divorce petition) or proof that you made every possible effort to notify the other party about the divorce. And again, the forms and requirements can vary depending on where you are filing.

Keep in mind, too, that any issues of child custody or support may delay your divorce. Most courts are reluctant to make such decisions absent one of the parties, but will do so with the right documentation. Your best source of information about ex parte and default divorce laws in your state is a local divorce attorney.

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