A default judgment can be entered in your case if your spouse has not timely filed an answer to your petition for divorce or modification relief. A default can be entered by the clerk or by the judge in your case. If a default is entered, a final hearing will still need to be held to complete your divorce.
Your defaulted spouse may or may not appear at the hearing, but if he or she does appear, no defenses to the allegations stated in your petition can be argued by your spouse. By not timely filing an answer disputing your allegations, your petition is deemed to be true in a default proceeding. A default judgment can also be entered as a sanction for discovery violations or as a sanction in contempt proceedings. After a default is entered, your spouse must still be given notice regarding any future hearings held in the case.
If there are minor children of the marriage, the court is always required to make decisions concerning timesharing, support and general well-being at a later hearing. Even though your spouse has defaulted, you must prove your petition allegations about child-related issues through witness testimony and other evidence. Your spouse must be provided notice of the hearing and given an opportunity to participate in the hearing so the best interests of the child or children can be determined by the court.
if the default was entered as a sanction for discovery violations or contempt, his or her participation may be limited by the court at the final hearing. For example, if discovery violations were found, the defaulting party would be allowed to testify, but the court could bar the defaulted spouse from calling other witnesses. The court could also restrict the defaulted spouse’s ability to introduce documentary evidence.
Fortunately, a defaulted spouse can ask the court to vacate a default divorce final judgment. Florida courts have a liberal policy of granting this relief if the defaulted spouse can establish the proper grounds for a grant of this relief. A full trial on the merits is always favored over resolving a case via entry of a default final judgment.
If you think you have grounds to seek a default divorce final judgment, if you want to avoid having a default divorce final judgment entered against you, or if you want to vacate a default divorce final judgment already entered against you, it is strongly advisable to seek legal consultation right away. Certain time limits may apply in your case.
The Law Office of Jeanne Coleman is available to assist you with all default divorce issues. Jeanne, a highly experienced Florida divorce attorney, offers an initial 20 minute free consultation. Jeanne Coleman has practiced family law, dependency law and Social Security disability law in the Tampa Bay area for more than twenty years. Call her office today at 813-253-2820 for an appointment.