Understanding Default Divorce: The Silent Struggle of Being Ghosted

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A default divorce judgement is when one spouse gets a divorce without the other’s involvement because he or she does not respond to or even acknowledge the complaint for divorce. It sounds ideal, especially when dealing with an uncooperative ex, but it is absolutely not ideal and here is why

I filed for default in September 2019, thinking I had it all figured out. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. Default divorce is a legal process, actually more like an extension of a legal process, but it’s not a shortcut or an easy way out. It’s a complex legal procedure with its own set of rules and regulations. And as I discovered, it can be full of unexpected twists and turns.

The Pros and Cons of Requesting a Default Judgement of Divorce

Pros: The Illusion of Drama-Free Dissolution

Yes, please. In theory, a default divorce can be a quicker and less contentious route, especially if your spouse is missing or unresponsive. In theory, if there is no one fighting back, there are no letters you need to answer, no interrogatories you need to answer, no requests you need to make, and no discovery you have to fight for.  Without the need for lengthy negotiations, default divorce can be, in theory, cost-effective.  The process can be streamlined if everything goes according to plan and the ex continues to ignore the numerous letters and notices from the court and from your attorney. Then, after the default judgment is granted, notices of assets being forfeited and titles or deeds being transferred, but yes, if they remain non responsive after all that for your states required grace period without filing a motion to vacate or to put the default aside, then sure, you can save money. Plus,In default divorce, the plaintiff sits and waits and waits, but the longer the defendant waits, the more it impacts the plaintiff. you can get away with the divorce without disclosing any or all of your assets.

But let’s peel back the curtain and look at reality.  My journey started with the hope of a quick, painless resolution but turned into a nightmare. My experience was more like the Groundhogs Day (Bill Murray version) of marathons.

The Cons of a Default Divorce (The Harsh Truth)

Despite the appealing pros, default divorce has its pitfalls. My ex’s sudden appearance in court turned my default divorce into an endless battle. Three attorneys and $300k in debt later, I was still trapped in a legal maze. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Risks for both parties: The spouse filing for default may face challenges if the other party suddenly appears. The defaulting spouse may lose their rights to property or custody.
  • Legal complexities: Navigating the legal system without professional help can be daunting. I learned this the hard way.
  • Potential delays: court closures, unresponsive spouses, and legal hurdles can prolong the process. My default hearing was postponed due to COVID, adding months to my ordeal.

My Personal Journey with Default Divorce I began my divorce journey with hope and determination, only to find myself entangled in a legal web. From hiring attorneys to representing myself, from court delays to financial burdens, my path was filled with obstacles. But through perseverance and resilience, I navigated the complexities of default divorce and emerged stronger and wiser.

Steps To DeFault Divorce (What’s Supposed to Happen)

    1. File For Divorce: The spouse initiating the divorce (the petitioner/ Plaintiff) files a Petition for Divorce with the appropriate court. This document outlines the grounds for divorce and the desired outcomes regarding child custody, support, alimony, and property division.
    2. Serving the Petition: The petitioner must serve the divorce papers to the other spouse (the respondent) according to the legal requirements of their jurisdiction. This can be done through personal service by a sheriff or process server, or by certified mail with return receipt requested.
    3. Waiting Period: After being served, the respondent typically has a certain period of time to respond to the Petition. If they fail to respond within the specified timeframe, the petitioner can proceed with a default divorce.
    4. Filing for Default: If the respondent fails to respond within the required timeframe, the petitioner can file a Request for Entry of Default with the court. This document notifies the court that the respondent is in default for failing to respond.
    5. Affidavit of Default: The petitioner may need to file an Affidavit of Default, which is a sworn statement confirming that the respondent has not responded to the divorce petition within the required timeframe.
    6. Default Hearing: In some jurisdictions, a default hearing may be scheduled. This is a court hearing where the petitioner presents their case and the judge reviews the divorce agreement or proposed orders. The judge may ask questions to ensure the agreement is fair and reasonable.
    7. Final Judgment: If the court is satisfied with the petitioner’s case and the divorce agreement, a Final Judgment of Divorce will be issued. This document officially ends the marriage and outlines the terms of the divorce, including child custody, support, alimony, and property division.

What ACTUALLY Happens (Mr. Ex’s Step By Step)

In New Jersey, where I hang my hat, here’s the lowdown on the Default Divorce Dance:

    1. The Opening Move: File for divorce. The defendant (that’s the lucky recipient of the papers) has 35 days from their “You’ve Been Served” party to respond. My ex? Silent as a church mouse. And get this: he dodged the server like he was in the Matrix five times!
    2. The clock’s ticking: If Mr. or Mrs. No-Show doesn’t respond within those 35 days, the one who filed (that’s the plaintiff, aka yours truly) has 60 days to ask for a default judgment. But there’s a catch! You’ve got to file a request and an affidavit within 6 months of the default. Miss that, and you’re out of luck. I was on attorney number two by then (the first thought we could “collaborate”—lol).. We got everything filed by December 2019, setting the stage for a court date in February.
    3. Enter the Plot Twist: Just when I thought I’d see the inside of a courtroom, COVID-19 decided to crash the party. The courts locked their doors a week before my big day and took a hiatus until July 2020.
    4. The Unexpected Turn: The defendant can ask the court to undo the default judgment within a year. Come July, my ex waltzes into the hearing, lawyer-less, and tells the judge he’s suddenly all ears. The judge, probably feeling generous, gives him a week to find a lawyer. He does, and our case goes into hibernation until March 2021. By then, I had to part ways with my lawyer. Why? Because COVID left me jobless, and even though my ex was supposed to be sending me cash, the universe had other plans.

So, dear reader, can you see how “default” might as well be a four-letter word? But let’s dive even deeper, shall we?

The Financial Toll

The financial toll of default divorce was staggering for me. Bear in mind, . Legal fees, court costs, and unexpected expenses added up, leaving me with $300k in debt. The financial burden was not just a number; it was a constant reminder of the challenges andAn empty wallet to symbolize the financial burden of default divorce sacrifices of my journey.


Representing myself in court was both empowering and terrifying. Without legal training, I had to learn the ropes, make my case, and advocate for myself. It was a daunting task, but I found strength and confidence in my ability to stand up for myself. Learn more about my story here. 

If you’re in a situation where entering default must be considered, arm yourself with knowledge, seek support, and be prepared for the unexpected. Learn from my experience, and remember that every journey is unique. Default divorce is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it’s a personal, complex, and unpredictable process that requires careful consideration and planning.

My story is a testament to the challenges and surprises that can arise. If you’re considering a default divorce, arm yourself with knowledge, prepare for the unexpected, and remember: sometimes, the only way out is through.