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Responding to a Divorce Complaint

If you have been served with a Summons and Divorce Complaint, you are the defendant. The person who filed the divorce is the plaintiff.

You have 35 days to respond to the Summons and Divorce Complaint.

If you do not respond to the court at all, the court may grant the divorce and order in favor of the Plaintiff.

You have three options in how you respond to the court. You can:

  1. File an Answer — this means you respond to, or contest, what the plaintiff has stated in the Complaint;
  2. File an Answer and Counterclaim — this means you respond to the Complaint and also state any separate grounds for divorce and/or claims you want to make against the plaintiff; or,
  3. File an Appearance — this means you are not contesting what Plaintiff has stated in the Complaint but you do want to be heard on issues of custody, parenting time (visitation), child support, equitable distribution, alimony, or other matters.

6 Steps to filing an answer in a divorce case


  1. Get the forms and instructions.
  2. Complete the Answer, Answer and Counterclaim, or Appearance Form. Complete the Certificate of Insurance and the Confidential Litigation Sheet. Do not include personal identifiers such as social security numbers on the document filed with the court.
  3. Make a copy of the forms and keep your copy in a safe place. Redact, or black out, the personal identifiers on the copies you submit to the court.
  4. Attach the filing fee of $175 or request a fee waiver.
  5. Upload the documents into the Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) system. You can pay the fee with a credit card. You can upload the fee waiver request form if needed You also can mail the originals plus two copies of all of the documents, plus the fee, to the Family Division of the Superior Court.
  6. Serve the Answer, Answer and Counterclaim, or Appearance Form on the plaintiff.

    You can deliver the papers yourself or send them using certified mail to the address the plaintiff put on the forms they filed with the court. You will need the complete the Acknowledgement of Service form and include the certified mail card and submit them to the court.

**Note: If you cannot prove your spouse received the papers, you might not be able to proceed with your case. Contact the family division for more information.

Forms needed to respond to a divorce complaint