How to Deal with Unilateral Divorce

Divorce is painful in all its forms, but unilateral divorce can be especially difficult. Unilateral divorce means one spouse decides to terminate the marriage without the consent of the other. This is possible whether a spouse files a no-fault divorce—meaning neither party is responsible for the marriage coming to an end—or an at-fault divorce that assigns blame, such as adultery or abuse. No-fault divorce, which is usually attributed to irreconcilable differences, is available to spouses who file either a unilateral divorce (without the spouse’s consent) or a consensual divorce (with the spouse’s consent).

While unilateral divorce might seem overwhelming, Graham Law Firm, PLLC can help simplify the process. We have handled many unilateral divorce cases that ended with favorable outcomes and want to ensure that you get what you deserve from the proceedings.

If you have just been served unilateral divorce papers in Northern Virginia, Graham Law can help. Contact us now to schedule a consultation.

How to React

If your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer presents you with divorce papers unexpectedly, you may feel shocked, angry, and betrayed. However, it’s important to stay calm as the divorce proceedings begin.

  • Don’t play the blame game in either direction. The natural response once the divorce papers enter your hands is to point the finger at your spouse or beat yourself up about what you did wrong. But it’s important to forgive in both directions as you begin this difficult process. This is likely to make it easier to face your spouse throughout the process.
  • Strive to surround yourself with like-minded people who support you and lift you up as you go through your divorce. It’s not healthy to continue associating closely with people who want to drag you down.
  • Take a step back when you start to feel overwhelmed. Your stress level will run high during your unilateral divorce, so allow yourself to take a break when things get too difficult. Make some tea, meditate, pray, do breathing exercises, or engage in whatever activity relaxes you the most. After this self-care, you should feel better prepared to proceed.

Contact a Lawyer

If you are the one served with divorce papers, you take on the role of respondent. You are required to give an “answer” to the divorce petition with the option of also submitting a “counterclaim” stating your own request for a divorce on whatever grounds you deem appropriate.

The court typically allows 20 to 30 days for you to respond with your answer and counterclaim. Known as the protected period, this is the time to contact a divorce lawyer and discuss what you want to do next. If the protected period runs out, the court can move forward with or without you. You may not even receive notification of the hearing date and could forfeit a lot of your rights in the case.

While it’s possible to file an answer after the protected period expires, it’s best not to wait if you want to make sure you’re notified of all the proceedings in the case so you can present your side to the court.

Determine Your Next Steps

With the help of a divorce lawyer, you can feel confident about how to proceed. In general, here is what’s required:

  • File an answer form and counterclaim within the protected period explaining whether you agree to the divorce and what you want out of the proceedings. You can respond after the protected period expires, but you run the risk of the court acting without your knowledge.
  • File a financial statement with your lawyer’s help.
  • If you have underage children, you should submit a proposed parenting plan at the recommendation of your lawyer.
  • Wait to receive notification about a court hearing and attend it with your lawyer.

Hire an Experienced Unilateral Divorce Lawyer in Northern Virginia

At Graham Law Firm, we are here to answer any questions you may have about how to handle or execute the process of unilateral divorce. We understand it is a complicated, unfamiliar process and want you to feel confident that your legal team has your best interests at heart.

Contact us now to schedule a unilateral divorce consultation in Northern Virginia.

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