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When not to file during a divorce

The impending divorce between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie took an interesting turn last week when Pitt's attorneys did not file a response to Jolie's divorce petition, apparently to prevent a "nasty legal battle" from commencing. This may seem unusual, as failure to respond to court deadlines can lead to very unfortunate consequences.

Which is why if your spouse files divorce papers in New York, you don't want to ignore them or hope they will go away. In the case of Pitt, it may also have to do with the fact that he is waiting for the investigation of the county Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) to conclude. They were examining the allegations that Pitt was drunk, out of control, and struck his son on a flight back from France.

If DCFS dismisses their inquiry, it would place Pitt in a better negotiating position for the joint physical custody he wishes to obtain. It also may indicate that the couple may be close to reaching a negotiated settlement without the assistance of the court. This would be preferable for the two, as it would prevent much confidential information from becoming part of the public record.

Pitt is likely working with very capable and expensive attorneys, so he likely has been well advised to understand the risks of allowing a filing deadline to pass. If you have been served with divorce papers, you should speak with a New York divorce attorney before the deadline for a response passes.

Ignoring a deadline could result in claims or issues being decided in your spouse's favor. If you want to respond on your own, you need to be certain that you understand what is contained in the filing and how you must respond. You also must understand court procedure, as the clerks of court and the judge will not provide advice.

Your attorney can explain the procedure and your options to ensure you are not unfairly prejudiced by a default judgment due to a failure to respond.

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