**We’ve received reports of phone calls coming from our office that we did not make. If you’ve received a phone call from our firm, please know that we will only call you if you’ve reached out to us, or if you’re an existing client. https://www.fcc.gov/spoofing **

Personal and Professional Legal Services in the Heart of Vermont

What happens if I do not answer a divorce complaint?

On Behalf of | May 3, 2024 | Divorce |

When your spouse unexpectedly serves you with a divorce complaint, the shock can be paralyzing. You did not ever think your marriage would turn out this way, and now you are expected to make crucial decisions amidst the heartache. Your disbelief, anger or sadness may drive you to shut off this new reality. However, inaction may negatively influence your future.

The risk of silence

Upon receiving the divorce complaint, you have 20 days to file an answer in court. This may seem long enough, but preparing a case is often time-consuming.

In your answer, you must state whether you agree or disagree with each claim your spouse has made in their complaint. However, it can be difficult to get started when you are emotionally upset. Consider seeing an attorney for help dealing with the complaint rationally. If you need extra time, you must submit a formal request to the court explaining why.

If you miss the deadline or fail to receive an extension, the court may issue a default judgment against you. This means a judge can decide on critical matters regarding your divorce, such as property division and child custody, without considering your stance or requiring you to be present. Although Vermont law strives for equitable property division, not responding could result in an unfavorable decision for you.

Answering a divorce summons and complaint

You do not have to agree with everything stated in the complaint. Instead, take it as an opportunity to express your perspective. If there are issues your spouse did not mention or if you wish to propose alternative terms, you can file a counterclaim. Consider consulting with an attorney to fully understand the divorce process in Vermont and whether these steps serve your interests.

Divorce may not have been in your plans, but it is a reality you must face now. The initial decisions you make could determine what happens to you in the near future. You may better gain control of the situation and minimize uncertainty by taking action.