Whether you expect a divorce or are blindsided by being served the divorce papers during your morning coffee, most people respond to “service of process” for dissolution of marriage with one question: now what?
What is Service of Process?
We will get to the “Now what?” in a moment, but first, more about service of process. While the first step in a divorce is to open the case, the next most significant step is to “serve” the documents on the other party. This is accomplished by providing the person served a copy of the stamped documents filed with the court. It gives “notice” that a case is open and information that includes what is being requested in the divorce. Some examples are spousal support, child support, child custody, attorney fees and division of assets and debts. Once those documents are served, the clock starts ticking for a response.
Starting your Response to Being Served
Moving on to the “now what.” First and foremost, the worst thing you can do is ignore the fact you have been served with divorce papers. Take a deep breath, maybe pour yourself a glass of water, a cup of coffee or tea, and prepare to start the process of responding. Carefully review the documents for any court dates and CALENDAR THEM. It is important to attend any court date that is set to avoid losing your rights. Review the mandatory restraining orders regarding sale or transfer of your property in addition to any other orders contained in the documents. Remember to follow them, and take note of the requests.
After this review, contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss what your goals are and how to accomplish them. To make this a productive conversation, be sure to consider whether or not you agree to the requests in the Petition for Dissolution. Make sure to have an idea of what you would like to request as well. Now is a good time to draft an inventory of your personal items as well as your financial accounts. For a better idea on your divorce timeline, click here to learn more.
As mentioned above, it is important to act quickly. A deadline has been put in place as soon as the documents are received. The Respondent (in this case, the person served) has 30 days from the date of service to submit a response. If that deadline is missed, then the Petitioner, the person who opened the case, will have the ability to file a default judgment giving him or her all of the requests contained in the Petition.
Don’t sit on your rights. Take advantage of the opportunity to be heard and be sure to participate in your divorce. Call Burgos Santoyo Smith, Inc to speak to an experienced family law attorney about how to accomplish your goals in your divorce case.