What Is a Default Hearing in Family Court

What Is a Default Hearing in Family Court?

Family court is responsible for handling a wide range of legal matters related to families, including divorce, child custody, child support, and domestic violence cases. When a legal dispute arises between family members, one party may file a petition or complaint with the court. In response, the other party is required to file an answer or response within a specified period.

However, there are instances where the respondent fails to file the required answer or response within the given timeframe. In such cases, the court may schedule a default hearing to proceed with the case. A default hearing is a court hearing that takes place when one party fails to respond or appear in court, allowing the other party to potentially obtain a default judgment.

During a default hearing, the party who filed the complaint or petition is typically present, while the party who failed to respond is absent. The purpose of the hearing is to allow the court to assess the merits of the case based on the evidence provided by the petitioner, without the presence or defense of the respondent.

The court will review the documents submitted by the petitioner and evaluate whether they meet the legal requirements for a default judgment. This may include verifying that the petitioner has provided sufficient evidence and facts to support their claims. The court will also consider whether the petitioner has followed all procedural rules, such as properly serving the respondent with the initial documents.

If the court determines that the petitioner has met all the necessary requirements, a default judgment may be entered in their favor. This means that the court will grant the relief sought by the petitioner without further involvement from the absent respondent. The specific relief granted will depend on the nature of the case. For example, in a divorce case, the court may grant the requested divorce and decide on issues such as property division, alimony, and child custody based on the petitioner’s submissions.

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However, it is important to note that a default judgment is not automatically granted simply because one party fails to respond. The court must still ensure that the petitioner has met all the legal requirements and that the relief requested is fair and appropriate.


Q: What happens if I fail to respond to a family court complaint or petition?
A: If you fail to respond within the specified timeframe, the court may schedule a default hearing. This means that the other party may seek a default judgment in their favor.

Q: Can I attend the default hearing even if I failed to respond?
A: Yes, you have the right to attend the default hearing, even if you failed to respond. However, your absence may potentially result in a default judgment being entered against you.

Q: Can I contest a default judgment?
A: Yes, you can file a motion to set aside a default judgment if you have a valid reason for not responding, such as excusable neglect or lack of proper service of the initial documents.

Q: How can I avoid a default judgment?
A: It is crucial to respond to any family court complaint or petition within the required timeframe. If you need more time, you may request an extension from the court.

Q: Can I appeal a default judgment?
A: Yes, you have the right to appeal a default judgment if you believe the court made an error in granting the relief sought by the petitioner without considering your defense.

In conclusion, a default hearing in family court occurs when one party fails to respond or appear, allowing the court to potentially grant a default judgment in favor of the other party. It is essential to respond to any legal documents within the specified timeframe to avoid a default judgment. If you find yourself facing a default hearing, it is advisable to seek legal advice to understand your rights and options.

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