Attorney at Law

What is a Respondent?

The respondent refers to the party against whom a petition or appeal is filed. A court order is typically filed against a respondent requiring them to take some action, halt a certain activity or obey a court’s instructions. Simply stated, the respondent is equivalent to a defendant in a legal proceeding commenced by petition or appeal.

The party filing the petition or appeal is called the petitioner. These terms are commonly used in divorce proceedings.

Key Takeaways

  • The respondent is the party against whom a petition or appeal is filed, often in divorce proceedings.
  • Once a divorce petition is issued, the respondent must reply within a specific amount of time. If he or she does not respond in time, it will lead to a default divorce.
  • One can also petition for a legal separation or annulment of a marriage.
  • An experienced family law attorney can help you respond to a divorce petition and navigate the divorce process.

Petitioner vs. Respondent in Family Law

When a divorce is sought, the petitioner is the spouse who initiates the process. The respondent is the spouse who answers to the divorce petition. In some cases, the respondent may already be expecting the paperwork if it had been discussed prior. However, petitions for a divorce can arrive out of the blue with no warning. Petitions can also be sent to a respondent requesting an annulment or legal separation.

The respondent is required to reply to the petition within a certain amount of time, which is specified by the state’s laws. Failing to respond to a petition on time can result in losing one’s right to make arguments about child support, child custody, and property division. Respondents who choose to ignore the divorce petition entirely lose their right to argue any part of the divorce. This results in a divorce by default, meaning that the court assumes the respondent agrees with the petitioner wholeheartedly. If the respondent has a justifiable reason for neglecting to reply to the divorce petition, the court may decide to set the default judgment aside and consider the respondent’s terms.

It is a common misconception that being the petitioner rather than the respondent guarantees a stronger position in divorce proceedings. In reality, all states recognize no-fault divorces, so it does not usually matter who initially files for the divorce. However, one may argue that being the petitioner allows one to set the tone for the divorce at the outset, which could be considered a slight advantage.

Bottom Line

If you have been served with a divorce petition, it is key to remember that time is of the essence. You should respond to the petition as soon as possible to ensure the ability to argue your rights during the proceedings. Even if you plan on agreeing to the terms in the petition, a highly-qualified divorce lawyer can be incredibly helpful throughout the entire process.

Ask a Lawyer

Ask your own question and get advice from expert attorneys
Ask Question

Featured Child Custody Lawyers

Law Office of Carlos Andujar Jr, ESQ

10 years in practice
Adoption, Auto Accidents, Child Custody, Child Support, Criminal Defense
View Profile

The Law Office of Michael J. Winter

47 years in practice
Auto Accidents, Child Custody, Child Support, Criminal Defense, Divorce Law
View Profile

Law Office of Gerald M. Wirsch, LLC

14 years in practice
Adoption, Child Custody, Criminal Defense, Divorce & Family Law, DUI Law
View Profile

D&O Law Group, LLC

15 years in practice
Criminal Defense, Divorce & Family Law, DUI Law, Personal Injury
View Profile

Law Offices of Ricardo J. Mauro, P.C.

29 years in practice
Auto Accidents, Personal Injury
View Profile

Law Offices of Robert F. Julian

47 years in practice
Auto Accidents, Construction Injury, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death
View Profile


Are you looking for an attorney? Do you have questions about a legal case you are facing? Contact us now and we will put you in touch with a lawyer for free.
Attorney At Law is changing how clients connect with lawyers. By providing an innovative platform to lawyers who want to expand their practice’s reach, AAL is bringing law practices into the future.
6142 Innovation Way
Carlsbad, California 92009
Some of the content of this website may be considered attorney advertising under the rules of certain jurisdictions. The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.
crossmenuchevron-upchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram