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I served my husband/wife with a divorce and they refuse to respond. What can I do?

In order to begin a case in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court system, you need to file a Complaint.  It can be a Complaint for Divorce, or Custody and Support, or Alimony, etc.  Once you file the Complaint, the court takes some time to generate a Summons.  The Summons along with the Complaint needs to be served on the other party by a sheriff or a constable.  Then the case starts.

The other party typically has up to 20 days to file a response to your Complaint called an Answer.  But what if you don’t get an Answer within the 20 days?  What if you don’t get an Answer at all – ever?

In the case of a divorce, if there is no response within 6 months, you can ask for a Pretrial date and the case can be decided in your favor on a default.  Same goes for other types of Complaint type cases.  However, there are some issues that cannot be disposed of without the other party because the court simply does not have the authority (jurisdiction) to decide them without hearing from the other side.  In those situation, you’ll need to ask the court to issue a Capias (a civil arrest warrant) in order to force the other side to come to court.

The procedure for each of these steps can be complex depending on what has happened in the case or the remedy that you’re trying to obtain.  It is best therefore to consult with an attorney that’s familiar with the family court system to help you with the process so that you don’t wast precious time and resources and don’t get any results.

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