Sometimes the other spouse does not participate in the divorce process. This can happen if he or she has relocated and lives too far away and does not have the means to travel to court or to hire an attorney to represent him or her, or where the issues are insignificant and not worth the trouble. Sometimes a spouse does not participate because he or she did not receive actual notice of the divorce action, even after being served with a summons. This happens when the client does not know where the other party is living and the Court approves a non-personal method of service, such as service by publication.
Whatever the reason for the other spouse not participating, the client can still get a divorce. If the couple does not have any property, debts, or children, the divorce can frequently be finalized without the need for a court appearance.
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However, if there are any issues that need to be addressed in the final judgment of divorce, an “inquest” or one-sided trial, is held. In a default divorce, the plaintiff’s attorney prepares the case for inquest in much the same way as a trial is prepared, with some exceptions. For example, instead of serving a notice for production of documents from the other spouse, third party subpoenas are served on banks and credit card companies. Instead of preparing an expert such as a real estate appraiser or forensic accountant to testify, the expert simply provides a report for use in court. At the inquest, the client and any other necessary witnesses testify without being cross examined. The testimony is often less elaborate than it would be a trial, because no opposition is anticipated. As a result, an inquest is much shorter and less costly than a trial.
At the conclusion of the inquest, the judge makes a decision which usually grants all the relief that the client requested at the inquest, and the attorney prepares and submits the proposed form of judgment and other documents needed to finalize the divorce.