So, you just got served with divorce papers? Maybe you were waiting for it, maybe not, but here you have it: your spouse wants a divorce and “you have been sued in the court.” Being served with the divorce papers, when you were least expecting it, can be one of the most overwhelming experience in one’s life. In circumstances such as this, what should you do? You may not be in the rational state of mind to think through your situation. Before you start to panic, it is advised to contact an experienced divorce and family law attorney to help assess your legal rights and the immediate next steps you need to take. The article below is written for educational purposes only. It is important to act quickly and decisively to make sure you take the right course of action. This article will lay out the ins and outs of the steps to take when you get served with divorce papers.
Even if you decide to stay friends with your ex-spouse, the divorce process is still considered to be a lawsuit. Your ex-spouse is entitled to request something from you and the court has the discretion to grant it. This is no way means that you must fight about your divorce, children, or property, but it does mean your rights will be affected. You should understand that your actions (or the lack of actions) will have consequences.
What Are These Papers?
When you get served with divorce papers, you will likely receive a Summons, Complaint for Divorce, Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit, Standing Order and other related documents. A Summons is the document which will tell you that you are being sued and the court has the power to hear and determine your case. This document will further state your obligations such as making court appearances when you are served. Once you receive the Complaint, the lawsuit will be initiated. The Complaint for Divorce (aka Petition for Divorce) will lay out the legal foundation for Court to have the power to hear the case, and the case can be filed in that court. Additionally, the Complaint will state what your spouse is asking for in the divorce action. You may also receive additional papers, such as an emergency orders, however this depends on your situation.
The following list below states the types of documents you will likely receive when you are served with divorce papers:
- The Complaint for Divorce (or Petition for Divorce)
- Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit
- Standing Order: Papers about the automatic restraining order on assets (which means that neither you nor your spouse can sell marital assets during the divorce process)
- Proposed / Requested Child Custody, Child Support Orders, and Parenting Plan if you have minor children.
What Should I Do When Served with Divorce Papers?
Educate Yourself About The Divorce Process
First step after receiving the divorce papers is to accept the reality. Once you accept the reality, you need to educate yourself about the divorce process and where you stand to make an informed decision. If you are not fully aware of your rights and obligations, it is advised to spend a little time by meeting with a lawyer to discuss your matter. Do-overs are generally very expensive, so quicker you consult an attorney, the better it would be. Follow the simple rule: never guess about things that you can know for sure.
Not only are you required to complete multiple documents, but you also need to know how to work with the issues brought about by the temporary orders. Because these orders are dealing with many different issues, it is crucial that your interests are properly represented.
It is important to be aware that the clock begins running immediately, as soon as you are served. In the State of Georgia, you will have 30 days to respond to the divorce complaint. However, for whatever reason, if you fail to answer and make a counter argument, an attorney may be able to file a motion to answer out of the allotted time.
Determine Your Legal Rights and Representation
If you do not understand what the papers mean, it is important to consult your local attorney experienced in handling matters like yours. The attorney can tell you what your legal rights and responsibilities are. Additionally, the attorney can advise you to represent yourself should you choose to not hire an attorney to handle your divorce matter. If you have decided to hire an attorney, it is advised to do it as soon as possible because the clock is running.
Once you have the time to absorb everything that has happened, you need to start organizing the paperwork you will require during this divorce proceeding. Begin by gathering the financial documents, and also make copies of the important documents including tax return statements, retirement accounts if you have any. If minor children are involved, then it is advised to gather the child(s) birth certificates, relevant medical information, and insurance documents. This information will be relevant in determining the need of spousal support.
As far as the child custody issue is concerned and you expect the child custody to be contested, you should begin by gathering child’s school records, and medical records. Additionally, any documents that show your active involvement in your child’s life should be also kept aside if a possible custody conflict were to arise. This relevant information will be used to determine how the parenting plan will be laid out.
This time must be very stressful, as one can imagine. It is understandable that you want to get through this process as quickly as possible, but haste can make things worse. If you stay organized, and have correct and complete information, then you can meet all the possible deadlines. When you are represented by a lawyer, he or she will tell you what you can expect and what you need to do. Take appointments seriously and understand what you’re getting into. Pay what the court delegates you to pay, be where the court says you need to be, and come fully prepared for these appointments. The court is frightening only if you are not prepared, or if you have no idea where you stand in the process. This can be changed if you come with an attentive, diligent, and proactive lawyer.
Call us today at Coleman Legal Group, LLC (Phone: 770-609-1247). Our experienced divorce and family lawyers are here to help you get through this stressful time.