You have spent hours pouring over all of the forms necessary to finalize your divorce. You researched online, browsed a DIY book, and maybe even had a meeting or two with a lawyer. You were finally able to get your spouse to sign and have his/her signature notarized (which was a huge feat in it of itself). You gathered your self addressed stamped envelopes, made copies of your Judgment and made time out of your (busy) day to drive across town to the courthouse, stand in the clerk’s line and submit your paperwork. Then….. a few days, weeks or months later, you receive an envelope from the court! Inside is not you Judgment — it’s a letter from the court “rejecting your judgment.” Ughhhh… sound familiar? It must, because we see hundred’s of people each year who need help getting their divorce completed.
We’ve compiled some of the top reasons why Judgments are rejected and have offered advice for what to do about it!
- No Proof of Service: The Summons and Petition must be filed and served. A Proof of Service must also be completed and filed in your matter. Best option for most is to have the Petition and Summons served personally by someone age 18 or older and not related to the action. Or, you can have someone ‘serve’ (deliver) the Petition by mail and have your spouse sign a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt (NAOR). Then file FL-115. If an (NAOR) was signed, file that too.
- Not Using an Optional Form: What???? The forms may say optional but unless you’ve got a Stipulated Judgment or Marital Settlement Agreement that’s absolutely PERFECT, you’re going to need to do these forms. The most important ones are: FL-345, FL-341, FL-342, FL-343, FL-345.
- No Copies and Postage: Is this 1970? Yes. You must bring with you 2 copies (1 plus the original), large self addressed stamped envelopes and enough postage for each envelope. You need two envelopes – One addressed to the Petitioner and one addressed to the Respondent.
- Judgment Exceeds Requests in Petition: If your Judgment is by default (the other party did not file a response and you are not submitting a written agreement to the court with your Judgment, then you may not request an ‘order’ that exceeds the request you made in your Petition. So, for example, if you checked the box in your Petition that you wanted the court to reserve jurisdiction over the issue of spousal support (give the court the ability to order support at a later date), but then checked the box in your Judgment for termination of support (the court will never have the ability to order support), your Judgment will most likely be rejected.
- Not Enough Information: If you are asking the court to make orders regarding child support or spousal support, you’ve got to explain the basis for the number you chose (even if you have an agreement with your spouse!) Even if you are not requesting support orders, you still have to explain to the court why not. So, for example, if you earn $12,000 per month and your soon-to-be ex spouse earns $2,000, the Court is going to want to know why you are not going to be paying spousal support. Paternalistic anyone? Maybe you had a super short marriage? Maybe your spouse lives with his/her parents who are loaded and pay for all bills? Maybe our spouse recently inherited a million dollars? Regardless, at the risk of TMI, tell the story.
A good way to ensure that you have completed all the necessary forms is to check out the Judgment checklist here. Yet another way to avoid the frustration of receiving a rejected judgment is to meet with a lawyer prior to submission. If you’re more the DIY type, we’ve got loads of templates, videos and resources to get you through the process.