It is never an easy thing to face the reality that your marriage is over. When one party (the “Petitioner”) initiates court proceedings by filing a petition for dissolution of marriage and serves their spouse (the “Respondent”) with the pleadings, the Respondent is often left with the question: Now What? Here are some simple tips to follow when served with divorce papers:
- Keep track of the date you were served. The court imposes a deadline the Respondent served with a petition for dissolution of marriage to file their response to the petition. Failure to file a response within the court’s deadline can cause the court to issue orders without any input from the Respondent.
- Determine whether you will hire a family law attorney. It is important to determine early in the proceedings whether you will hire an attorney to assist you through the divorce proceedings. If you choose to have legal counsel, the attorney will likely want to draft their own response to the Petitioner’s petition for dissolution of marriage. The earlier the attorney is brought into the case, the more familiar they will be with the facts of your case and the goals you have set.
- Consider your finances. Take a look at any joint bank accounts and keep a close eye on the funds that are removed from the account. Keep accurate records of your spending out of any joint accounts. You may also want to consider working with your spouse to divide the remaining funds in the joint accounts so that those accounts can be closed.
- Read any Injunctions that are put in place by the court in your divorce case. Once the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed the court will normally issue an injunction. An injunction prevents certain actions with regard to the marital property, insurance and any minor children. An injunction is a court order and it is important that all court orders are followed by the parties.
- Consider sitting down with your spouse. Oftentimes the parties are able to sit down early on in a case to discuss how each of them would like to resolve the case. While many cases are contested and the parties are unable to reach any agreements, some divorcing couples are able to take control of their divorce case and work out agreeable terms that their attorneys can then memorialize in a final decree. Parties should also consider whether a form of mediation would be helpful in their case.
- Do not forget the kids. While learning that your spouse wants a divorce is painful, the affect that this decision has on the children of the marriage should be a primary concern of the parents. Divorce can be devastating for the kids. While the parents often consider what they could have done differently in the marriage to make it work, the children often do the same. It is so important that children of a divorce are appropriately informed and that they have an outlet to express their emotions. Counseling can be helpful and should be considered early on in the divorce case.
If you are served, do your best to stay organized, make sure that you calendar all court dates and deadlines and contact an attorney early to ensure that your rights are protected.