The Basic Steps in a Virginia Divorce Proceeding (Part A)
Filing for divorce is usually accompanied by feelings of anger, guilt, regret, and uncertainty about the future. Having a qualified and compassionate Virginia divorce lawyer is crucial during this emotionally difficult time, but it is also important for you to understand how Virginia divorce proceedings work.
By familiarizing yourself with the Virginia divorce process, you'll know what to expect during each phase of the proceeding. This can bring you some peace of mind and allow you to communicate more effectively with your divorce attorney.
Filing a Virginia Divorce Complaint
In Virginia, as with many states, divorce proceedings begin when a husband or wife files a "Bill of Complaint for Divorce" to a court of law and has that complaint "served" to their spouse. The spouse who files the divorce complaint is then referred to as the "complainant" and the spouse who receives the divorce complaint is named the "defendant."
Don't let these titles scare you; they are simply used to identify who began the divorce proceedings.
After the divorce complaint has been delivered, the defendant has 21 days to file their response, which is called an "answer." The divorce case will then proceed either after the defendant has filed their answer or when the 21 days expire without any response; whichever comes first.
The defendant can also choose to sign a waiver after the divorce complaint has been filed. By signing the waiver, the defendant is waiving their right to be served and the divorce proceedings can continue without the required waiting period.
For couples with children and other shared assets, it is not uncommon for a divorce complaint to come with a "Notice of Pendente Hearing".