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“You’ve Been Served”: What to Do If You’re Served Divorce Papers

Posted by Jason Isaacson on February 20th, 2019

Being served with divorce papers can be upsetting and stressful, or may just be a welcome and practical step towards ending a relationship. However you feel about being served divorce papers, there are certain things you must now do to move the process forward. This article talks you through each step.

  1. Read the papers carefully

Reading your divorce papers may seem like a no-brainer. However, it is essential that you take time and care when doing so to ensure that you fully understand the wealth of information they contain. Signing divorce papers without thoroughly reading them first could mean you end up agreeing to something that you actually object to.

Among other things, divorce papers should contain information such as where the action has been filed, the deadline by which the spouse must respond, and whether the spouse who filed the paperwork is acting alone or with the help of an attorney. The grounds for divorce, as well as information on important matters such as child support and custody and division of property, may also be laid out in these documents.

  1. Provide your response

The required response time is typically 20 days from when you were served with the papers, so you should check your divorce papers to make sure you know the deadline and ensure you provide your response before then. If you do not provide a response within the deadline, it is possible that your spouse could be granted everything they have requested in the papers, as not responding suggests that you are amenable to these requests.  Providing a response may be difficult without an attorney who can prepare the document, called an Answer, properly. This brings us to the next important step:

  1. Hire an attorney

The next thing you should do is hire an attorney. An attorney will help guide you through the process and can assist with drafting and delivering the response to your spouse. An attorney will help you go through the papers and respond to each numbered statement, providing as much information and reasoning as possible.

Legal counsel can ensure that you understand all your rights and options and that your rights are protected, particularly if the case becomes contested at a later date. If your divorce papers indicate that your spouse has employed the services of an attorney, it is even more imperative that you retain your own counsel so that both parties’ rights and interests are protected and fought for on even ground.

  1. Gather paperwork and documents

Documents such as pay-stubs, income tax returns, and recent bank statements are useful to have on hand. Other helpful documents include financial paperwork such as credit card statements, mortgage agreements, and statements from retirement and/or brokerage accounts. These documents will help an attorney ascertain where the income comes from and how assets will be divided.

  1. Protect your assets

Some individuals need to be careful about protecting their assets. If you are concerned that your spouse may try to take money from you, your attorney can and should issue an Automatic Restraining Order, to prevent either party from making unusual transactions, withdrawals, or take other steps that may harm you financially.

  1. Next steps

From here your attorney has two choices – to try and resolve the financials and custody issues amicably, or to ask that a Judge be appointed to the case to help you and your spouse.  If proceeding amicably and outside of the court, your attorney can set up a settlement conference with your spouse and his or her attorney. If you wish to go to Court, then your attorney will schedule a Preliminary Conference with the Court, during which you will meet the Judge selected for your case, who will make recommendations for settlement and oversee the process if a resolution cannot be reached.  Further, the Judge has the power at this point to direct that certain bills must be paid while the case is pending, how income should be shared between you and yourself, and who should pay the attorneys.

If you are looking for an experienced divorce lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected, call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation, or e-mail us at jisaacson@sihllp.com

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