Whether you have discussed divorce with your spouse or it is a complete surprise to you, getting served with divorce papers can be a traumatic experience. It is important to know what to do so your legal rights are protected.
Actions to Take If You Are Served With Divorce Papers in Virginia
If your spouse files for divorce, you would be served with a summons and complaint. Under Virginia law, they must be served upon you by a process server, local sheriff, or another appropriate person. Here is what you should do after you receive them.
Do Not Refuse Service of the Divorce Papers
You should not refuse to accept the service of the divorce papers. It will not delay the legal process to do this. If you refuse to be served, it could cost more to serve you, or you could be served in another way where you do not actually receive the court documents.
Read the Summons and Complaint
You should not ignore the legal documents you received. Your first step should be to read the summons and complaint. Here is what these documents are:
- Complaint. The complaint is the petition for divorce filed by your spouse. It will state the grounds for divorce that they are relying on and what they are requesting in the divorce, such as custody of any children, child support, spousal support, and property acquired during the marriage.
- Summons. The summons advises you that you must file a written answer to the complaint and the deadline to file it with the court. In Virginia, you have 21 days to file your answer. If you do not file it within this deadline, a default judgment could be entered against you giving your spouse what they are requesting in the complaint.
Retain a Lawyer
You should hire an experienced divorce attorney immediately after being served with the divorce papers so that they can file an answer on your behalf. Even if you and your partner are in basic agreement on the issues in your divorce, your interests are different. Your lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected and that a custody agreement, child support obligations, and property settlement are fair to you. Were you served with divorce paperwork in the Norfolk or Virginia Beach area? Call our office today to schedule your free consultation to learn how we can assist you.