If your spouse doesn’t respond to your petition for divorce after you serve him with the papers, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the court will probably give you everything you asked for in the petition. However, you have to take one more step: you have to ask the court for a decree by default. In California, you can do this by filing family law Form FL-165, a Request to Enter Default, along with a few extra documents.
When You Can File
You can’t file Form FL-165 until at least 30 days have passed from the date your spouse received a copy of your divorce petition and summons. He has that 30-day period in which to file with the court an answer to your paperwork. You can only use Form FL-165 if you properly served him and he failed to respond.
Completing Form FL-165 -- the First Page
The FL-165 form is available on California’s court websites; you need only print it out. Write your name, address and phone number at the top. You can include an email address if you want. Beneath that, write the county where you filed for divorce and the address of the courthouse there. In the next box, write your name as the petitioner because you’re the one who filed for divorce. Your spouse is the respondent. Enter your case number; the court clerk writes this on your divorce petition when you file it. Line 1 asks the court to enter default and line 2 asks you to check off what additional documents you’re filing with the form. This will depend on what you’ve asked the court for in your petition. Sign and date the form and below that, tell the court how you want to serve your spouse with a copy of the form. If you know where he’s living and you didn’t serve the petition by publication, check the second box, indicating that you want the court clerk to send him a copy.
Completing Form FL-165 -- the Second Page
The second page of the form asks about any court costs you incurred in filing for divorce. You must also attest that your spouse isn’t serving in the military. If he is, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects him, so you may not be entitled to a default decree. California courts offer family law facilitators at each courthouse. You can take your form to the facilitator and have it reviewed to make sure you did it right.
Many California counties require that you submit a proposed divorce decree along with Form FL-165, including the terms for which you’ve asked in your petition. If you have children, you must include forms relating to custody and child support. If you and your spouse own any community property, you’ll have to complete and submit the property declaration form. If you don’t attach a property declaration form, check off the box on Form FL-165 box that explains why. You may also have to include an income and expense declaration form or a financial statement. As determining exactly which additional forms you need is sometimes complicated and unique to your personal situation, a facilitator or attorney can guide you.
Filing the Paperwork
When your paperwork is complete, make at least two copies. The court keeps the original on file and the clerk will mail one copy to your spouse. You’ll need the additional copy for your records -- and the clerk will stamp it as received. You’ll also need two envelopes large enough to hold copies of the paperwork, complete with postage, so the clerk can forward your paperwork to your soon-to-be ex. If all your forms are completed correctly, California doesn’t require that you appear in court to end your marriage. The judge will sign the divorce decree and the clerk will mail it to you in the other envelope you provide. You’re legally divorced as of the date the decree is stamped as filed.