served divorce papers

You’ve Been Served Divorce Papers, Now What?

Goldberg Jones Divorce 1 Comment

What happens when your spouse serves you with divorce papers? A key step in all divorces, it still often feels like being blindsided. It also comes with a lot of questions. How do you respond? What do you do next?

If you have questions about how to proceed after you’ve been served divorce papers, hopefully, this will clear up your concerns.

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What Does It Mean to Be Served Divorce Papers?  

Two things happen when you’re served divorce papers. First, it serves as formal notice that your spouse has filed to dissolve your marriage. The petition may include a proposed distribution of assets and debts, custody of any children, child support, and alimony obligations.  

Second, after being properly served, this starts a clock in the family court. Each state has a time limit and in which you must file a response. Regardless of where you live, the countdown begins the day divorce papers are served.  

Related Reading: Can I Annul My Marriage in Washington?

What to Do Next 

Once divorce papers have been served, you have two options. One, you can ignore the filing, in which case the divorce will proceed by default. You lose the right to make arguments on your behalf. This also means the court will likely grant all of your spouse’s requests regarding the division of property, custody, support, and the rest.  

The alternative option is to file a response with the court. 

When you file a response, consider the state that has jurisdiction. This has a major impact on your case. There are two approaches, fault and no-fault.

Fault states allow divorce on the grounds of adultery, abandonment, and emotional or physical cruelty, among other reasons. Essentially, the courts declare one spouse to blame for the end of the marriage.

In no-fault states, it works a bit differently. There’s no need to assign blame or responsibility. You file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences or an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. If one partner believes the marriage can’t be fixed and wants a divorce, that’s all the court needs.

When responding to the petition for divorce you can make your own proposal for the allocation of assets and debts, child support, alimony, and custody. Just because your spouse filed first doesn’t mean they automatically get what they want.

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How to Respond 

The best way to proceed after being served divorce papers is to hire an attorney and file a response in a timely manner. 

Once you have completed and signed the Response to Petition, you must deliver it to the appropriate court and the opposing party in order to make sure the case does not proceed via default.

Related Reading: Is Arbitration the Right Choice?

How to Move Forward 

Once you’ve been served divorce papers and submitted your response, the true legal work begins.

If both parties agree on most of the issues at hand and split amicably, you can file for an uncontested divorce. Much faster and easier, this option also saves money on legal fees.

On the other hand, if there are disagreements or conflicts, things become more complicated. Both sides have to sit down and hash out the specifics on the property, custody, support, and any other points of contention.

Sometimes people can do this on their own, but these negotiations often require attorneys. You may use a form of alternative dispute resolution like mediation or arbitration. If that doesn’t work, cases often wind up in court in front of a judge. Contrary to popular belief, however, most divorces don’t go to court.

Being served divorce papers can be a big shock. Even if you know divorce is coming, this makes it real. It can be an emotionally draining time. You face an uncertain future when it comes to finances, family, and more. It’s likely in your best interest to talk to a divorce lawyer about the best way to proceed.

Related Reading: Will Coronavirus Cause a Rise in the Divorce Rate?

Comments 1

  1. It’s interesting to know that a lot of divorces don’t even go to court. My aunt is considering to hire online divorce mediation services because she is currently living away from her spouse after a domestic dispute that they had. I do think it would really be for the best if she could be as far away as possible from him to ensure her safety during the divorce process.

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