The divorce process can be incredibly stressful and emotional for anyone — but it can be especially upsetting to discover that your spouse is seeking a divorce by being served divorce papers through a third party, such as a court officer or process server. It may be tempting to ignore the papers, or to put off reading them, but you shouldn’t. In order to safeguard your own legal rights, consider taking the following these steps:
- Accept the papers – The divorce papers will likely be physically handed to you by a third party, not your spouse. Upon being handed the papers, accept them from the person serving them. Even if you don’t accept the papers and ignore the lawsuit, the divorce process will proceed by default. By accepting the papers you will ensure that you are fully informed of your spouse’s allegations and wishes, and will therefore be better equipped to protect yourself in the future. If you choose to ignore the papers, then the court may render a default judgment and grant your spouse’s requests, including parenting time, child support, the division of marital property, and alimony. You deserve to have your voice heard in the process, so don’t ignore the documents.
- Read the papers – After accepting the divorce papers, you will want to read them thoroughly, preferably with the help of an experienced family law attorney. The papers will consist of two main elements: a Summons and a Complaint. The Summons essentially says that, in Virginia, you have 21 days to respond to the complaint, while the Complaint details your spouse’s grounds for dissolving the marriage. Once you know what your spouse has alleged, and what they are seeking, you can respond and begin to craft a legal strategy.
- Respond to the Complaint – You will need to respond to the complaint by filing an answer within 21 days of being served the divorce papers. This document is known as an Answer to the Complaint. You should not attempt to serve this document yourself, but you can have a process server do it on your behalf. The Answer to the Complaint is your chance to respond to all of the allegations laid out by your spouse, to make your own allegations, to state how you would like to divide the marital property, and to make your preferences known regarding the allocation of child support, child custody, alimony, and more. Remember: if you don’t file your Answer to the Complaint within the 21-day time frame, a default judgment could be rendered against you, which could put you at a disadvantage.
- Consult with an experienced divorce attorney – You should consult with a seasoned divorce attorney as soon as possible after being served with the divorce papers. A skilled divorce attorney can file your response on your behalf, guide you through divorce proceedings, advise you of your legal rights, and safeguard your interests throughout the process.
Contact a Virginia Divorce Lawyer
If you have been served divorce papers, reach out to one of the knowledgeable Virginia divorce attorneys at Invictus Law right away. Our team will work tirelessly to advocate for your wishes and interests as divorce proceedings get underway, and will ensure that your rights are not violated during the process. We are ready to craft a winning legal strategy that obtains an outcome that is fair to you. Contact us today for a consultation.