Many individuals who are facing divorce have never been to court before. While some simpler, uncontested divorces may only require one, or even no court appearances, other cases that are contested and/or involve complex issues can require both spouses to be present at numerous hearings before their dissolution of marriage is final. While court hearings may be inconvenient and may interfere with work or other schedules, it is highly important that you take these appearances seriously. Additionally, if your spouse fails to appear in court, there can be consequences for them and effects on your case.
The consequences of failing to appear without previously notifying the court can vary depending on the type of hearing scheduled, the reason for the hearing, and the reason for the failure to appear. For example, the following can occur:
- If your spouse fails to appear at the first court appearance and has also not filed a written answer to your divorce petition, you may request that the judge enter a default judgment granting the divorce. While your marriage may be dissolved with a default judgment, other issues including child custody or property division may not be settled
- If your spouse does not come to a hearing to decide certain issues in the divorce, the judge may either reschedule the hearing or may decide the issue based on your testimony alone, which can often work in your favor.
- In some cases, if the you believe your spouse is intentionally not showing up to hurt the case, you can ask the judge to hold them in contempt of court and they may face criminal penalties and an arrest warrant can be issued.
A former Florida state senator was held in criminal contempt after he failed to show up at two different divorce hearings and failed to give one of their dogs to his wife as ordered by the court. His appeal of the contempt finding went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court and has recently been sent back to the trial court due to due process considerations. This case goes to show how a failure to appear can drag out legal issues as the failure to appear occurred in 2011 and the case is still persisting. Continue reading →