In typical divorce trial practice, following the filing of a Complaint for Divorce, there is often an Answer to the Complaint for Divorce, a Counterclaim, and a Reply to the Counterclaim.
Virginia Supreme Court Rule 3:11 states, “[i]f a pleading, motion or affirmative defense sets up new matter and contains words expressly requesting a reply, the adverse party shall within 21 days file a reply admitting or denying such new matter.” If the responding party fails to respond to the allegation within 21 days, the new mater is taken as admitted.
Failure to respond to a request for reply or responding to new matter pursuant to Rule 3:11 can prove disastrous. In the case of Northern Virginia Real Estate v. Martins, 283 Va. 86 (2012), Defendant employed Rule 3:11 in their response to plaintiff’s amended complaint, by pleading a new affirmative defense and specifically requesting a reply. After plaintiff missed the 21-day deadline, the new matter was deemed admitted and the trial court entered an order that all but eviscerated the plaintiff’s case. This case is a reminder to counsel of Rule 3:11 and its role in pleadings practice.