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How do you answer a divorce petition?

You received a divorce petition that your spouse has filed. You knew that your marriage was coming to an end, but seeing the petition delivered to you personally is almost too hard to bear emotionally.

Moving forward with the divorce process in West Virginia can understandably be overwhelming and complicated. However, it is critical that you approach this type of civil court proceeding as logically and proactively as you can. Here is a glimpse at the steps you will need to take after your future ex has filed a divorce petition and had it delivered to you.

What to do once you have received the petition

Your spouse is the petitioner if he or she is the one who filed the divorce petition, and you are the respondent. As the respondent, you need to respond to your spouse's petition during a given time frame, usually three weeks or so.

The petition is basically a lawsuit, where your spouse is the plaintiff and you are the defendant. When you answer his or her petition, you're basically responding to his or her legal allegations. It is critical that you respond as rapidly as possible so that you do not lose the opportunity to communicate your position concerning matters like asset distribution.

What to include in your petition response

In your petition response, you should first acknowledge your receipt of your future ex's petition. Then, you can mention whether you support or reject the contents of the petition. For instance, do you agree with what your spouse stated about your marital union and about you in particular? Also, do you agree with your spouse's proposal concerning property division, alimony and child custody?

What will occur if you fail to respond in a timely manner?

If you do not answer your future ex's petition by the deadline, a judge will assume that you agree with the petition's contents. The next step is the judge's entering a default against you, meaning you cannot present an argument concerning any aspects of the marital dissolution going forward.

You may ask the court to remove this default, but you will need to provide legitimate reasons for its removal, which may be a difficult process. An attorney can guide you through each step of the process of answering a divorce petition so that your legal rights and best interests are upheld from the start.

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Joseph Brophy Cordell, Attorney at Law
115 1/2 West King Street
Martinsburg, WV 25401

Phone: 304-707-0673
Fax: 304-263-3378
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