Do I have to respond to a divorce summon in order for the court to not decide unilaterally regarding spousal support, property distribution, separation date, and the continuation/ceasing of spousl support upon common law (living together) relationship with person of any sex? Also can the petitioner amend the summons to change the joint custody of the kids? Also the petitioner checked the box requesting termination of the court's jurisdiction to award spousal support to respondent. Should this be a concern? I make more than the petitioner at this time. Petitioner also checked child visitation to respondent, whereas the box for petitioner child visitation is not checked. Any concern here?
2 Answers from Attorneys
My immediate concern is your use of the term common law relationship. California law does not provide for common law marriage, and cohabitation alone does not create any community property rights.
If you have children and were never married, that would be a paternity petition. But there would be no rights to spousal support or property division unless you entered into some sort of contractual relationship.
Although Mr. Roach is entirely correct, the direct answer to your question is "yes" you must respond. If the respondent named in the petition does not respond, the court assumes everything in the petition is true and correct and will enter a default judgment on that basis. Although the judgment may be void and would certainly be voidable, it would still be a really big legal mess to clean up, compared with filing a response denying the existence of the marriage and then a motion to dismiss the case for lack of a valid marriage, or to convert it to an unmarried paternity, custody and support case.