Divorce cases are civil cases that often require one or several appearances in a courtroom before being finalized. While court appearances can seem intimidating or inconvenient, it’s critical to take them seriously and show up when the court expects you.
Reasons Why People Avoid Divorce Court Appearances
Depending on their circumstances, there are many different reasons why people choose not to participate in their divorce cases or appear in family court, including:
- Feeling intimidated by the process – For many people, a divorce hearing is the first time they’ve been in a courtroom. The high stakes of the situation coupled with an unfamiliar setting can be especially daunting for some.
- Struggling with feelings of guilt – If one spouse engaged in adultery, abuse, financial deception, or other behaviors that destroyed their marriage, they might feel too ashamed to answer to their spouse or a judge in open court.
- Wanting to delay or halt the divorce – In especially contentious situations, one spouse may refuse to appear in court because they want to delay or stop the proceedings and make things more difficult for their partner.
What Happens If You Fail to Appear in Court
If you skip a scheduled court date without notifying the court ahead of time or providing a valid reason, the court will note your absence as a failure to appear (FTA). Depending on the circumstances, the potential repercussions of failing to appear in court for your divorce case could be severe.
No matter the reason, failure to appear in court during your divorce proceedings makes a terrible impression. Your absence might lead the court to conclude that you aren’t taking the divorce seriously, which could make the judge less inclined to consider your interests when they make their decisions.
If you were the one who filed for divorce in the first place, your case could even be dismissed if you fail to appear at certain hearings. If this happens, you might need to re-file and start the process over, which will be expensive and time-consuming.
Assuming divorce proceedings continue in your absence, you won’t have the opportunity to intervene when your spouse explains their side to the court. You’re unlikely to know what was said or presented to the judge until after the fact, so you won’t be able to defend yourself or refute your spouse’s testimony.
If you fail to attend an initial court appearance or respond to a divorce petition filed by your spouse, the judge might dissolve the marriage in a default judgment without your presence or input.
Dissolution of marriage proceedings typically do not involve hearings for certain issues like child custody or division of assets, so judges often reschedule these types of hearings to ensure the presence of both spouses. But if you’ve established a habit of skipping hearings, the judge could decide to proceed without you.
Finally, if you fail to appear for a scheduled hearing in divorce court, you could be charged with contempt of court. Failure to appear when you are summoned by the court is illegal, so the judge would have the right to fine you or even issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
The consequences of failing to appear in court are rarely this severe in divorce cases, but it’s still in your best interest to show up when the court expects you. Refusing to appear won’t prevent your divorce, and it will do far more harm than good.
Contact a New York Divorce Attorney Today
The experienced New York divorce attorneys with The Mandel Law Firm can help you understand the nature of your hearing and the potential consequences of failure to appear. We can also represent you in court and make sure your case isn’t derailed by avoidable errors. Contact us today to learn more in an initial consultation.