How to Proceed After You Receive Divorce Papers
Being served with divorce papers can be very disconcerting, even if you know they are coming. Taking sufficient time to think through your plan and following these steps will help you make the best decisions.
Review the Documents When You Are Calm
It is tempting to read through divorce papers immediately upon receipt, but it is better to wait if you are upset. Reading them when you can focus and think clearly will:
- Give you time to accept the inevitable
- Prevent misunderstanding of what you are reading
- Help you recognize where urgent action is necessary
- Allow you to take notes about specific points you want to address
Formulate and File a Response
Although a formal response to a divorce complaint may not be required, your attorney may advise you to file one. Your attorney will have experience addressing any matters you contest within the time-frame indicated on the complaint. Depending on your financial circumstances, you may also need assistance requesting alimony pendente lite or financial support from your spouse to help you prosecute the divorce.
Whether or not you have a formal response to the complaint, you will need to file for a court appearance on the day the complaint indicates. This step includes paying a filing fee. Depending on state law, you will have about 20 days from when you receive a divorce complaint to do this.
Talk with Your Children
If you and your spouse have children, you may worry about their needs and well-being during your divorce. Plan to speak with your children as soon as possible, in age-appropriate terms, to help ease everyone’s transition and adjustment to the circumstances. You may also notice that the divorce complaint does not mention child custody. You and your spouse may be able to address child custody and support in separate proceedings. The court may require you to participate in mandatory mediation to work out custody of your minor children. Contact a divorce attorney as soon as possible after receiving divorce papers to get advice about how to avoid compromising your interests.