Under California law, a default divorce is one where one spouse does not sign the divorce forms or has nothing to do with the divorce. That spouse defaults on the case and filing spouse is entitled to a divorce and generally the court grants everything that the filing spouse seeks in the divorce petition.
When you file a divorce petition, you must serve a copy of it to your spouse. Your spouse has 30 days to respond to the petition. If your spouse does not respond within 30 days, you can apply for a default divorce.
Sometimes you may not be able to serve your spouse either personally or through mail because your spouse may no longer be available at the last known address or may be avoiding the service. In such cases, you can apply to the court to permit you to serve your spouse through publication. However you must convince the court that you made diligent and good faith attempts to serve your spouse but you were unable to do so. If the court is satisfied that you have made diligent and good faith attempts to serve your spouse but could not do so, it will allow you to serve your spouse through publication. If your spouse does not appear or respond to the petition even after the publication, you can seek a default divorce.
An application for a default divorce must be made on Form FL 165. If you have served the divorce papers on your spouse, you must mail a copy of the Form FL 165 to your spouse. If the service was done through publication, there is no need to mail the form to your spouse. Once you file the Form FL 165, the court will grant you a default divorce. However in a default divorce, the court will not decide on the issues of alimony, child support, custody and visitation and distribution of assets.