You have been served divorce papers. Now what? The first thing to realize is that you are not alone. Divorce decisions are seldom mutual. Many are initiated by one spouse, and the spouse being served is either aware the papers will come at some point or is completely caught off guard. Regardless, knowing your marriage is about to end is not a good feeling, and having those papers in your hand can feel like you are merely responding to a decision that has already been made.
If you are served divorce papers, please know everything will be OK. While everything may be a bit overwhelming initially, it is important to remember that you have rights and can have a say in what happens next.
Here is how you should respond after getting served divorce papers:
We like to start with this tip for any family law situation. Tensions can run high when couples are divorcing, and it is very easy to lose your cool when placed in situations you are not used to or feel threatened and scared by. Instead, take a deep breath and keep in mind that you may be unable to talk your spouse out of their decision. If you are a believer, pray for God’s intervention — that He places peace in your heart, wisdom on your lips, and discernment in your head.
Read the notice
If you have been served with divorce papers, there is a deadline to file an answer. In Texas, it is by 10 a.m. Monday after 20 days have gone by, including weekends and holidays, from the date you officially received the divorce papers. While you absolutely have the option to ignore the notice, doing so means that the divorce can go ahead without you. Your spouse could get a default judgment, and you will not have any input about property division, debts, and possibly outstanding issues regarding your children. Clearly, that may not be what you want. Therefore, it is a good idea to read the notice as quickly as possible and proceed to tip No. 3 on our list.
Hire a family law attorney
If you have not already consulted with a family law attorney, now is the best time to do so. Offices such as ours at Nelson Law Group, PC, offer free consultations and are here to ensure that your questions are answered, rights are protected, and you proceed with the divorce process in a way that best serves the outcome you hope to achieve. Make this decision sooner rather than later so you can be informed about the divorce process and how best to proceed.
Only decide who to hire after you have had an opportunity to meet with the lawyer (or lawyers) and have developed a feel for how willing they are to tell you things you do not like to hear. If you do not develop this sense, change your questions, and consult with additional attorneys. The person you retain must be willing and able to speak truth into your life in this emotionally devastating time. If you are uncertain or have any doubt about whether you should hire a particular lawyer you consulted with, make another appointment, and meet with someone else.
Respond to the divorce papers
Responding to divorce papers in a timely manner tells the court that you want to be involved in what happens next. By “fighting the case,” you accept the divorce but object to certain aspects (i.e., the division of assets, custody stipulations, etc.). This allows you to go before a judge and work together with your lawyer to work for the best possible outcome. Another response option is to “refuse the divorce.” This comes into play if you do not want to get a divorce and would rather object to the grounds of the divorce. The court will then have a hearing to prove whether the grounds for a divorce outlined by your suppose are valid. If they are not valid, the court could dismiss the divorce petition.
Gather your financial records and other relevant paperwork
Staying organized throughout the divorce process saves time and money. Financial records include everything from bank accounts and statements to investment information, income tax returns, and retirement accounts. Gather all of this information and organize it so it can be accessed quickly. Not only will this make your lawyer’s job easier, but you will feel more prepared, too. For example, what does your financial situation look like? How many accounts do you have together and separately? What is your monthly budget, and how much can you realistically pay a family lawyer?
What evidence do you think you need in hand before meeting with a lawyer? Getting a divorce can take a few months to several years, so where will you live in the meantime? Where will your kids live? There will be many things you cannot account for, but trying to get yourself as prepared as possible early will help you later.
Mediate or go to court
Not every divorce case is settled in court. Many times, divorcing couples wish to avoid litigation and find a peaceful end to their marriage. Two options many couples consider are collaborative divorce and mediation. Each has numerous benefits, and your attorney will help explain those to you.
Call Nelson Law Group today!!
If you are headed toward divorce, you need a trusted advisor in your corner every step of the way. We know the law, but more importantly, we are invested in you and your family — before, during, and after divorce.
Give our knowledgeable staff here at Nelson Law Group, PC, a call if you have any further questions regarding this or any other issue. Our staff is always available. Give us a call today! For more information about Brett A. Nelson, click here.