Know Why You Really Shouldn’t Ignore Documents from Family Court?

You may not want to get divorced the divorce in the first place.  So, it might make sense to you to ignore documents from Family Court.  After all, your spouse can’t possibly end the marriage without your permission, right?  If your thought process is along these lines, you really need to learn the truth.

The fact is that there are most certainly consequences to ignoring documents from Family Court.  (Or, any court for that matter.)  It’s not just failing to answer the divorce complaint.  In some cases, you could even wind up in jail for overlooking court orders.  Let’s go through some examples.

The Consequences of Ignoring Family Law Complaints

Since divorce actions start with the filing of a complaint with Family Court, we’ll begin here.  The law gives litigants thirty-five (35) days to answer pleadings filed against them.  The time to answer may be shortly extended with good cause.  But, what happens if you just put the legal documents on the back burner?  Or, just ignore them all together?

The answer is not a good one.  You may have heard of the term “default judgment.”  This means that you have forfeited the right to have a say in the outcome of your case.  Maybe you were never married and have custody issues.  Yet, another reason to pay attention to papers from the court.  Obviously, you want to be involved in what happens to your child or children.

When you ignore a family law complaint, the adversarial party’s attorney will make an application to enter the default judgment.  Papers will be submitted to the court regarding a proposal for  equitable distribution  and a proposed judgment for divorce or custody.  The supporting documentation will include your spouse’s Case Information Statement (CIS) and backup exhibits.

You might still not understand why this represents a prospective problem.  Consider this example.  For whatever reason, your soon-to-be ex can’t locate information regarding your income.  But, he or she is in possession of loan documents you submitted.  Maybe you inflated your pay to increase the likelihood of obtaining the lender’s approval.  See how this could impact your case?

We cannot emphasize enough the problem with ignoring a family law complaint.  If you still question the consequences, you should speak with an experienced matrimonial attorney.

Overlooking the Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel Date (MESP)

We discussed the purpose of Matrimonial Early Settlement Panels in a prior blog.  You should know that appearances at these hearings are court ordered.  This makes them mandatory.

The fact that they are compulsory doesn’t necessarily make a difference to everyone.  Again, there are penalties associated with not showing up.  We’ll give you an example from a recent court case.

In the Swift v. Swift matter, neither party was represented by legal counsel.  The couple married in 2009.  Tyrone Swift filed for the divorce in 2016.  Lakeshia Swift answered the complaint and filed a counterclaim.  She also sought equitable distribution.

The court filed a case management order that included a directive for the parties to appear before the MESP.  Tyrone did not appear for the first scheduled hearing.  Ultimately, the court sanctioned him for his failure to appear and ordered him to pay $200.

The MESP hearing was rescheduled.  Tyrone did not appear a second time.  Rather than applying further monetary sanctions, the court took a dim view of Tyrone’s failure to attempt to settle the divorce case.  This meant dismissal of Tyrone’s pleadings.  Lakeshia was permitted to proceed with her counterclaim and request for equitable distribution.  She was first ordered to file and serve paperwork for a default judgment. 

We’ve already pointed out the issues concerning default judgments in matrimonial cases.  This is yet another example of the importance of paying attention to court documents.

Going to Jail for Ignoring Court Orders

You might be able to guess some of the reasons you can go to jail for ignoring court orders in family court.  In case you’re uncertain, here are some examples:

  • Failing to comply with restraining orders
  • Kidnapping in contempt of custody orders
  • Delinquency in paying court-ordered child support

It’s never a good idea to ignore directives from the judge.  Jail is just one consequence.  You can save time and money by being compliant.  Of course, that should not stop you from consulting with your attorney concerning proposed modifications to court decisions.

Have Questions?

At the Law Offices of Sam Stoia, we recognize that every family law case is unique.  We offer prospective clients the opportunity to discuss their concerns for no initial cost.  Let’s meet to discuss how we can help you.  Our contact information is available to assist you in setting up an appointment.

Know Why You Really Shouldn’t Ignore Documents from Family Court?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *