How to Respond to a Court Petition

By Michael Martin
Fill out the response to the petition and file the document with the court.

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A court petition is a legal document filed with the court. The most common types of petitions are for child custody matters and divorce. If you received one of these documents, you need to file a response. If not, a judge could issue an Order of Court against you -- granting the petition -- because there was no opposition.

Review the petition for service of process. The court needs to know that you were properly placed on notice of the pending legal matter. Generally, the petitioner obtains service of process through a process server or my certified mail, return receipt requested.

Read the petition carefully. Note where the petition was filed and the pertinent deadlines for a response. Begin evaluating how you will respond to each of the numbered paragraphs outlined in the petition. Gather important documents such as financial statements or other legal records to help aid in your answer.

Fill out the responsive form. Some petitions have boxes where you can admit or deny each of the numbered statements. An example is your county and state of residence. If the information contained in the statement is not correct, you need to provide a written explanation providing what you believe is the correct information. Other courts may have a specific response form. Go to the court's law library and locate the appropriate responsive form pertaining to your dispute. The law librarian can point you in the right direction, but she cannot provide legal advice.

File the response with the court. Go to the courthouse where the petition was filed, and locate the clerk of court's office. Filing your response does not involve a processing fee. Make copies of your filing beforehand.

File a counter-petition. If there are certain rights and requests that you want the court to hear on your behalf, a counter-petition becomes an effective mechanism. Like a response form, you need to find the appropriate form to fill out for your petition. These can be found in the court's law library or some courts have these forms online. A counter-petition must be served on the other person, and it requires a processing fee. Contact the court to find out the fees.

Attend all court hearings or mediations. This is your opportunity to defend the petition filed against you. Bring all your paperwork to support your case and arrive on time. Advocate your side to the judge or mediator when the hearing begins.

About the Author

Michael Martin began writing professionally in 2008. He has more than 10 years of experience in the insurance industry and primarily writes about legal issues. Martin holds a Juris Doctor from Albany Law School and is licensed to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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