top of page

Uncontested vs. Default Divorces: What Are They & Which Is Best?

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Uncontested Divorces

An uncontested divorce occurs when the parties have no disputes over the issues in their case, such as: property and debt division, spousal support, child custody, and/or child support.

The process looks like this:

  1. You and your spouse agree that you both want a divorce, agree about all the issues involved, and simply need to get the appropriate forms filed.

  2. A response is filed. It doesn’t matter who is petitioner and who is respondent. Both spouses need to do their preliminary declarations of disclosures (PDODs).

  3. The rest of the documentation can be completed by either party.

Default Judgments

In California, there are two types of defaults - a default with an agreement and a default without an agreement.

A default with an agreement is like an uncontested divorce, except the respondent is not formally participating in the divorce proceeding - therefore the respondent does not need to file a response with the court.

To proceed with a default with an agreement, both spouses must agree on all issues, which will be memorialized in a Marital Settlement Agreement. The Marital Settlement Agreement must be notarized. This route saves the respondent from having to pay the required court filing fees, usually around $435.

A default without an agreement is typically when the respondent has no intentions of participating either formally or informally and is simply ignoring the fact that divorce proceedings are being had OR the petitioner is unable to locate the respondent for whatever reason.

The petitioner would need to seek an entry of default and a default judgment in order to proceed with the divorce proceeding entirely without the respondent.

Regardless of the “why” for a default divorce, the court follows the same basic procedures and timelines when dealing with default divorces.

Exceptions to Default

The only exception is for military members, who have protections against default divorces while actively enlisted.

Default Divorce Process in California

If the respondent is served with the divorce petition, the petitioner may proceed with a default divorce if there is no written and filed response within thirty (30) days after the service of the petition. A respondent who intentionally avoids personal service of the divorce petition may be served by other methods so that the divorce may proceed regardless.

In a default divorce, the court will most likely grant the divorce (and assets distributed) according to the petitioner’s requests because there are no opposing sides or arguments.

Once a default divorce is granted, it is hard and costly to undo it.

There are several pros and cons to either route, which is why it is important to speak to a family law attorney about your unique circumstances. Wells-Gibson Family Law can help you determine your best option and guide you every step of the way.


bottom of page