What To Do After Being Served Divorce Papers
Today’s topic deals with getting served with divorce papers. What should you do when you are served with divorce papers? I understand that getting served with divorce papers is a very stressful experience, however, it’s important to try to stay calm and be sure to read the documents calmly and thoroughly. It’s also helpful to know that you do not have to do anything immediately upon being served the documents.
Here are some steps that I think you should take after you have been served with divorce papers:
- The first step is to simply accept the service. Do not avoid or ignore these documents as doing so could likely negatively impact you in the divorce process.
- After accepting the service, your next step should be to read them carefully in their entirety, like I stated earlier.
- You will have approximately 20 days to respond to the complaint. So, after reading the documents, step three should be to put that date on your calendar so that you do not miss that date. If you fail to respond, you may be defaulted and your spouse will then get everything that they have asked for in their complaint. So again, do not try to avoid service, whether you were personally served or not, the divorce will proceed and it will not be to your advantage for it to proceed without your involvement.
- The next step that I suggest is for you to hire an attorney. If money is tight, and you need to do it yourself, you can go to the self-help center in the family court or you can reach out to legal aid services. Sometimes they can help with lowering the fees for an attorney that can help you. (Read more on “Do I Need an Attorney To Get a Divorce?”) However, I do not recommend that you conduct your divorce without an attorney if there are children involved and you and your spouse do not agree to custody. Custody battles are very complicated and I feel that it would be in your best interest to have an experienced attorney help you with that.
- The next step is filing your answer to the complaint. Like I mentioned, you usually have a deadline of 20 days after being served to respond to the complaint. After you file the answer, within between 30 to 90 days, you will have been assigned a court date. Upon this date you will go in front of the judge and will be asked whether or not you and your spouse have come to an agreement with all the issues in your case. If you have not reached an agreement, the judge will then send you to a mediation. This is a place where you can go and have a third neutral party who will be there to help you and your spouse discuss your issues and hopefully come to an agreement to all the issues in your case. Issues that you will discuss will be, of course, child support, child custody, alimony, the marital home, the bank accounts, things to that nature, of that nature. That third party is experienced in divorces, so they generally can help the couples come together and reach an agreement. If you reach an agreement at your mediation, then your case is over. If you do not reach an agreement, then you will have to start preparing for trial.
Those are the basic steps to take if you are faced with being served divorce papers. Once a divorce is finalized, it can be a long and difficult process to modify any court orders. Therefore, I will mention again, I’m a strong proponent of hiring an attorney if there are children involved to have someone with experience help you achieve the best outcome for you and your children.
If you have been recently served with divorce papers, or are anticipating a divorce, do not hesitate to contact our office to discuss your specific situation with our experienced Family Law attorneys. To schedule a meeting, contact our office at (702) 998-1188, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by scheduling a consultation online.