If you have been served with a divorce complaint, do not delay in responding. You are the Defendant in the action. You have 35 days from the date you received the Summons and Complaint to file a response. There are 3 types of responses: (1) Answer; (2) Answer & Counterclaim; and (3) Appearance.
If you choose to file an Answer, you are responding, admitting/denying the allegations of the Plaintiff’s Complaint.
If you file an Answer & Counterclaim, you are responding to the allegations of the Plaintiff’s Complaint, and asserting any separate grounds or claims against the Plaintiff. A potential benefit of filing a Counterclaim, is that if the Plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed for any reason, the divorce action is not terminated as you can proceed on your counterclaim. Without a counterclaim, if the Plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed, the divorce action is terminated in its entirety, and in order to proceed a new Complaint would have to be filed by one of the parties, and the action starts over again from the beginning.
If you file an Appearance, you are not contesting the claims and allegations made in the Plaintiff’s Complaint, but preserve your right to be heard on the issues raised.
If you do not file a response to the Complaint, the Plaintiff can request that a “Default” be entered against you, and you lose your right to answer or otherwise defend against the Plaintiff’s allegations.
The fee for filing an Answer is $175, and for an Answer & Counterclaim $250. If you cannot afford the filing fees, you can apply for a fee waiver. In addition to filing the Answer/Answer & Counterclaim/Appearance, you will need to file: (a) Confidential Litigant Information Sheet; (b) if representing yourself, known as being a pro se litigant, Certification of Self-Represented Litigant & Dispute Resolution Alternatives; (c) Certification Regarding Redaction of Personal Identifiers; (d) Certification of Verification and Non-Collusion; (e) Certification of Insurance Coverage; (f) Family Part Case Information Statement.
In the next part, we will discuss completing the Family Part Case Information Statement, and conducting discovery.
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