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How long does your spouse have to respond to a divorce petition?

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2024 | Divorce

When you file for divorce, you serve your spouse with the divorce papers. This is also known as a divorce petition. It informs them of your intention to end the marriage. They have to respond to this petition before the court can set up hearings or take other steps to move toward dissolving the relationship.

As a general rule, spouses are given about three weeks to respond after being served with divorce papers. This holds true in Virginia, where your spouse will have 21 days. They certainly could respond immediately, and many people do. But if they want to take time to consider all of their options or look into the legal process a bit more deeply, they have three weeks in which they can do so.

What if they still don’t respond?

If they haven’t responded by the deadline, then you may move forward with a default divorce. This is just a way for the court to grant you a divorce even without your spouse’s cooperation. It is likely not going to be used if your spouse accidentally missed the deadline or forgot to respond. But there are cases in which one spouse will intentionally refuse to cooperate, so a default divorce gives you an option to end your marriage anyway.

In fact, there are some benefits for you if you go through a default divorce. When splitting up child custody rights or marital assets, for example, your spouse’s preferences will no longer be part of the process because they aren’t involved with the divorce. That certainly does not stop the eventual divorce from happening, though.

When things get complicated, be sure you know what legal options you have. It can be helpful to work with an experienced legal team at this time.