Filing an answer to a divorce complaint


#1

What are the rules for filing an answer to a divorce complaint?

Does the answer have to be signed and dated?

Does the answer have to have a sworn and notarized verification?

Does the answer have to be served on the Plaintiff? If so, how? Can it be served through a PO Box?

If an answer is filed with the clerk but contains none of these and is not served on the plaintiff, what can be done about it at the hearing? Can a really lengthy answer that is a long rant be prevented from entering the record, removed from the record and/or expunged?

If the answer is filed after the 30 days, is it still allowed? What can be done about it if it is past the 30 days?

If the answer is allowed and it makes claims about the nature of the separation, will that need to be addressed at the hearing?

Thanks!


#2

What are the rules for filing an answer to a divorce complaint?

It is not necessary for an answer to be filed, if the defendant chooses to do so the Answer must be signed, notarized, dated and filed within 30 days of service of the Complaint. It must also me mailed to the Plaintiff by regular mail to a physical or PO box address.


#3

Thank you, Erin.

If an answer is filed but not signed or notarized or verified, can it be stricken?

If there is no certificate of service, can it be stricken?

Will that require a motion to strike it?

Will a separate hearing need to be set to hear the motion to strike the answer?

If a court date is already set for hearing the complaint, can a motion to strike the answer be heard at the same time?

Thanks.


#4

An unverified unsigned answer would not affect the file, and will not affect the case. You may file a motion to strike pursuant to rule 12 of the rules of civil procedure for improper form and service, and will need to schedule a hearing for the same, I suggest you check with the clerk to see if that matter can be added to the current court docket for the date of the divorce.


#5

Thanks Erin, your answers are very helpful and informative. I will read rule 12 (and the rest very carefully).

Can the motion and notice of hearing for the motion be filed at the same time and can they be served at the same time to the defendant?

Also, is it a better strategy to ask for the whole answer to be stricken or for parts of it to be stricken if the whole answer is not going to be stricken?

I think I’m asking this because I read somewhere in the rules that motions have to be consolidated. If so, do I need to consider any other things I may want or need other than the defendant’s answer in this particular motion?


#6

Yes, the motion can be filed and served with the notice of hearing. The entire answer should be stricken as it is not verified (notarized). All domestic pleadings must be verified.


#7

Just to follow up on the hearing. Perhaps my experience will be useful to others on this forum. The Wake County District Civil Court’s clerks would not allow for a motion to be heard at the same time as the uncontested divorce hearing, so I abandoned filing a motion to strike the defendant’s answer at least until after the hearing.

The defendant chose not to appear at the hearing. The judge read the unsigned and unverfied answer and, without any comment about the answer, went on with questions pertinant to the Findings of Fact in the Judgment. Maybe if the defendant had appeared, the process would have been moved to being a contested divorce with an assigned family court judge and maybe not. I don’t know. The judge at the uncontested divorce hearing granted the divorce. I don’t know if it is simply because the defendant chose not to appear or whether the answer was ignored or both. I did ask the judge about redacting personal information inappropriate to the answer, personally identifying information that could be used for identity theft. The judge said I would have to go through a different process to get that done and I later discovered that it will most likely have to be a motion to be heard in Wake County District Civil Court to get that done. If you have any suggestions about that, they would be most welcome.

The judge was very probative in determining whether a defendant was truly contesting anything material to the grounds for an absolute divorce or not in the several cases where a defendant came and had anything to say other than preserving other rights with the plaintiff.

Another thing that helped was going to the Friday uncontested divorce hearings a few times to listen to the process in advance of my own hearing date. I got to see several examples of what happens when things are not completely uncontested and when the process is not followed correctly by a plaintiff or defendant.

Thanks for providing this forum to those of us going through very trying times in our lives.


#8

Thank you for sharing your experience!