I’m getting a divorce, and my husband filed the paperwork. Strangely, he filled out my portion of the paperwork for me and even put in a name change. I don’t know what to do with this. Any suggestions?

This is a general response because every jurisdiction may be a little different, but the principles that I discussed below are pretty uniform throughout the United States. Make sure you consult an attorney in your jurisdiction as to what you should do in response to being sued for divorce. And hurry, as you have a limited period of time from the date you are served to the date when you have to file your responsive pleadings with the court.  

What you may be describing is the complaint or petition for divorce. If so, your spouse is required to prepare, file, and serve upon you a complaint or a petition for divorce to commence the divorce process in the court. Among the things that a complaint or petition for divorce contains our requests for what the court’s orders will be at the end of the divorce proceedings, in other words, what provisions will end up in your decree of divorce. 

When preparing a complaint or petition for divorce, if on does not ask for something, the court may be unable to grant it or could grant it, but does not simply because it didn’t know what you wanted (because you didn’t tell the court you wanted it). Does that make sense? 

It is normal for a complaint or petition for divorce to include details about the couple, including the fact that they are married, when and where they married, if and when they separated prior to filing for divorce, etc. among other things that your spouse could include in the complaint or petition for divorce is a request that your surname be changed to your maiden name. This does not mean that simply because your spouse has requested these things of the court that the court will grant all of them. 

You will have an opportunity to answer the complaint or petition for divorce by filing your responses to the complaint/petition with the court. You can object to and deny those requests that your spouse makes that you oppose. You can also file what is known as a counter petition or counterclaim against your spouse, making requests of the court as to what you want the decree of divorce to contain. 

If you have been served with a complaint or petition for divorce (or whatever other name the document may have in your jurisdiction), you are likely also served with that document at the same time what is known as a summons. In most jurisdictions, after you have been served with a complaint or petition for divorce, you have a certain period of time in which to respond to that complaint/petition by filing what is known as an answer or a response to the complaint/petition.  

At the very least, unless you agree with everything that your spouse has requested in the complaint/petition for divorce, you will want to file an answer to the complaint/petition because if you do not file an answer, then you will be in default and your spouse can obtain default judgment against you (sort of like losing the game by forfeit because you never bothered to show up). almost always, however, spouses who are sued for divorce do not merely file an answer to the complaint/petition, but also file a countersuit asserting their own requests as to what they want the decree of divorce to provide.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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