The founding attorney of The Law Office of Matthew J. Rudy.
Our Law Blog and Articles is an online publication that covers our latest news, hot cases, emerging trends and big personalities in law. It’s brought to you by Attorney Matt J. Rudy.
What to do after Receiving Divorce papers
Sometimes divorce is finally filed after years of separation and is well anticipated. In other cases, it comes as a complete surprise to the person receiving paperwork. After receiving divorce papers, individuals must take immediate action to protect their legal rights and future.
Read the Papers
It is important that a person carefully read over the divorce papers. These papers may contain a wealth of information of which the spouse needs to be informed. The divorce papers should list the court where the action was filed. This can be helpful information to know if the spouses have been estranged and the divorce is being filed in another state. The divorce papers should also list a deadline by which a response must be provided. Additionally, the divorce papers will indicate whether the spouse is filing the paperwork on his or her own if he or she has retained an attorney.
Additionally, the divorce papers may allege the grounds for divorce. They may also discuss requests by the moving party, including information about child support, spousal support, division of property, child custody and other issues related to the children.
Provide a Response
The divorce papers should indicate the number of days that a person has to respond to the complaint or petition for divorce. This is usually 30 days, starting from the date when the spouse was actually served with the divorce papers. However, the spouse should be certain on this information. If he or she lets the deadline pass without responding, the other spouse can potentially receive everything he or she requested in the divorce paperwork.
Normally, a person will provide a response through his or her attorney. However, if a person cannot come up with the funds necessary to retain an attorney, he or she may have to provide a response on his or her own. Otherwise, the spouse can forfeit his or her rights and legal arguments. Typically, a person must respond to each numbered statement in the complaint and not just issue a general denial of all statements.
Hire an Attorney
Divorce can have a dramatic effect on a person’s life, so it is important to retain legal counsel if at all possible. Even if the spouse who receives the paperwork believes he or she is in agreement with the divorce and allegations, a divorce attorney can review the documents and inform the spouse of his or her legal rights and options. If the case later becomes contested, the spouse will have someone who can advocate for his or her rights.
It is especially important for a person to retain an attorney if the other spouse already has. This is to prevent the spouses from being on uneven footing. In some instances, a person may be able to retain an attorney for the limited purposes of filing a response or representing the spouse in court. This is a consideration if finances are an issue and a person is unable to have a lawyer fulfill all legal roles in the divorce.
If the spouse contacts a lawyer, he or she will likely ask the spouse to bring in certain documents when he or she arrives at the initial consultation. Preliminary documents that a spouse may need to gather include documents that provide identifying information, such as birth certificates, the marriage certificate and social security cards.
Spouses will also likely need to gather financial documents that demonstrate how much each is paid, the last three years of tax returns, bank statements and credit card statements. These documents help identify the income, assets and debts of the household, which will be needed for later purposes in the divorce process.
Protect Your Assets
Individuals going through divorce should discuss how they can protect their assets. Some jurisdictions immediately call for all assets to be frozen once a divorce petition is filed with the court. A spouse should know whether he or she should remove half of the amount in joint accounts in the jurisdiction and should ask about this.
If the spouse’s income is directly deposited to a joint account, he or she should consider setting up a separate bank account and rerouting the funds to this account. He or she should also investigate ways to save as divorce is expensive with all of the legal fees and expenses. The spouse should pull a credit report to check his or her financial wellbeing and to find out if any recent debt has been taken on of which he or she is not aware.
Spouses should be careful that their mail is rerouted to avoid detection by the other spouse during divorce. Lawyers may send letters with strategic plans, and this information should not be revealed to the other spouse. A post office box can help protect privacy and confidential communications.