You Were Served Divorce Papers, Now What?
- Written by Sherea-Ann Ferrer
'My wife wants a divorce', uttered the bewildered spouse after being served divorce papers. In your case, maybe a brief sense of panic overcomes you as you scramble to gather your thoughts. The thing to do after you gather your emotions is to follow proper legal procedure in order to position yourself in the most advantageous stance.
Following are 4 tips to legally get you going on the right path:
1) What is the deadline for response? First thing to be aware of after being served is that you have a specified amount of time to answer the petition of divorce served on you. Be aware of this deadline to respond and heed it.
Initially, take the first couple of days to compose your emotions and seek support from family and friends. Do not attempt to contact your spouse in a state of anger after just being served divorce papers. Instead, take these first couple of days to thoroughly read and understand the divorce petition. Answering divorce papers served on you will require deliberate and proper planning.
2) Decide promptly on your method of legal representation. Try to decide within the first week of being served divorce papers. Choose between hiring a divorce attorney or a do-it-yourself divorce, if you are so inclined. If you retain a lawyer everything will be taken care of for you provided you submit all the necessary documentation. If finances are a big factor, you can choose the do-it-yourself divorce option and still hire an attorney to perform only specific tasks.
For example, you can hire a divorce attorney to just help in the task of answering and filing your initial response to the divorce petition. Or you can hire an attorney to only provide you with family law advice and help filling out divorce papers. The other duties, such as court appearances, you handle yourself. Lastly, you can even hire the divorce attorney to represent you only in court and you do the remaining duties involving paperwork and setting court dates. The choice is yours, but don't delay.
3) Another item to be on top of after being served divorce papers is your financial outlook. Perform a review of all your accounts and assets. Think about canceling any joint accounts and moving monies to an individual, secure account.
While in this mode, you may want to think about cutting back on expenses and saving some money for the uncertainty in your near future. Again, do not confront or deal out of spite with your spouse in the process of setting up your case. Do not purposely leave your spouse without any means of supporting them self or household financial obligations. Note that the best position to take after being served divorce papers is one that is deliberate, firm, but also fair.
4) Lastly, consider the children. If any are involved, do the following. Do not involve your children in the conflict between you and your spouse. Resist the sometimes natural urge to criticize your spouse in front of your children. It may feel just, especially if your spouse is engaging in this sort of lousy behavior himself/herself. But if you care about the outcome of your case, you will be in a much stronger position if you refrain from involving your children and adding to their perceived chaos.
Being served divorce papers is not the end of the world. Just be sure to take immediate, deliberate actions in order to set you up for the best possible outcome. And don't forget to respond to being served divorce papers within the given deadline. Sounds simple enough--but enough clients have contacted my office nearing said deadline without having accomplished much of a response to the divorce petition. Don't let this be you.
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Sherea-Ann Ferrer is a divorce attorney based in Orlando, Florida. If you could use additional family law related information or just have a few questions answered, visit her at Orlando Divorce Law Firm