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What Happens After I Have Served the Divorce Papers on My Spouse?

Authored By: Children's Law Center
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What happens after I have served the divorce papers on my spouse?

Your spouse has 21 days to file an Answer with the court. The Answer is your spouse's statement that tells the court whether he or she agrees or disagrees with what you say in your divorce Complaint, including whether he or she agrees or disagrees with what you say or wants the court to do something different.

How will I know whether my spouse has filed an Answer?

Your spouse is supposed to mail a copy to you. You can also check with the Family Court Central Intake Center after the 21 days are up to see whether your spouse has filed an Answer. You can check in person or you can call (202-879-1212). You can also go to the Family Court Self-Help Center and ask them to check.

What if my spouse does not file an Answer?

When will I have a court hearing?

  • The first court hearing is called an "initial hearing" or an "initial status conference.” It will usually take place 30 to 60 days after you file your complaint. This hearing will be scheduled at the time the complaint is filed. If you are the plaintiff, you will be given a notice at the time you file your case with the date, time, judge and courtroom number. You will also be given a copy of this notice to include with the papers you must get served on your spouse.
  • At the initial hearing, the judge will see what the status of the case is, start to find out what the issues are that need to be decided, and take steps to move the case forward to a final decision.
  • This is not the final hearing. The judge will not make final decisions at this hearing.
  • You must attend this hearing. If you don’t, the case will probably be dismissed and you will have to file a motion to vacate the dismissal or file a new case and start over again.
Last Review and Update: May 16, 2019