What Now? Actions To Take After You've Been Served Divorce Papers

Whether you and your spouse have discussed it or it's a total shock, being served with divorce papers is an unpleasant experience. It's all too easy to wallow in emotion and try to ignore the problem, but this is one time when you must take assertive actions to protect your rights. Read on for what actions to take after you've been served.

Give it a Thorough Reading

Legal jargon can be difficult to read, but pay special attention to the following information:

  • The grounds – Almost all states offer no-fault divorce, in which case the wording might read "irreconcilable differences" or the like as the reason for the divorce. If there are grounds, however, the petition (also called a complaint or prayer for relief) will say so.
  • Orders – In some cases, your spouse may include several orders for support or to deal with property. He or she may ask for child support, spousal support, use of the family home, use of a vehicle, and more. These orders can be challenged and altered.
  • The court – If your spouse is filing from different state or district of your state, you will be able to tell by the petition.
  • The attorney – If your spouse has an attorney, their name will be included.
  • Deadlines – You must respond to the petition and you only have a certain amount of time to do so.

Respond to the Divorce Action

The response by the deadline is vital – otherwise, your spouse will be granted everything they want. A lack of response is the same thing as forfeiting your right to challenge an aspect of the divorce. A general denial won't work, each and every point of disagreement should be listed separately.

Get Representation

Regardless of how much you might agree with the divorce and what your spouse is requesting, having legal representation is important. An attorney can review the complaint and ensure you fully understand the ramifications of agreeing to the demands. If you intend to challenge any aspect of child custody, debt division, property, or anything else, an attorney is vital.

Information Gathering

You will need to access and gather certain important documents. Both your attorney and your spouse's attorney will require a full understanding of your property holdings, your debt obligations, and more. Be ready to provide the last several years of tax returns, credit card statements, mortgage statements, and bank statements.

Take Protective Actions

After consulting with your attorney, you may be advised to remove or protect certain assets. Some states freeze a certain percentage of assets and some allow each spouse to retain one-half of the assets until the divorce is final. Be sure to open your own bank account and pay close attention to all joint accounts and credit cards. Finally, get your own mailing address and have your mail routed to it. Speak to your divorce lawyer to learn more.