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Things to do when you receive divorce papers

Whenever divorce papers arrive, they need to be acknowledged.

Jul 7, 2019 |
4 min read

Divorce papers aren’t always unexpected. You may be waiting for them to arrive after many years of separation. But when they do come, these papers can still pack an emotional punch.

Even if you think you’re ready, they might still take their toll. And when you’re not expecting them at all, divorce papers really can be upsetting.

Divorce papers can come at any time. Yet despite the emotions you might be feeling, ignoring divorce papers is a bad idea. Pretending they don’t exist is only going to make things worse.

You may not want to, but when you receive divorce papers, you need to tackle them head-on. Here is what you need to do.

Read the divorce papers

Divorce papers have been sent to you to be read, so this is the first thing you need to do. It’s vital, in fact. A divorce is not the same as purchasing something online and skipping through the terms and conditions.

It is something that is going to affect the rest of your life. This is why you need to spend some time reading the entire document through. It may be painful, or you might find it dull, but you need to know what it says.

Within the divorce papers, there should be a deadline by which you need to respond. You will need to have this date in mind and work towards it.

You will also be able to determine who your spouse is using as a lawyer and who is filing the paperwork. All of this can become important later on.

Understand what is being asked of you before moving onto the next step. It may be too early as this initial stage for the papers to include specifics. However, it is best to check.

This is especially true if you have children or shared assets such as a property.

Offer a response

Once you have read the divorce papers and you have noted the date by which you need to respond, you will need to do so. The date is usually 30 days from the date of the papers. This is not a lot of time in reality, and you will need to begin work immediately.

Remember, if the deadline passes before you respond, you could lose a lot more than you anticipated. Your spouse might be granted everything he or she has asked for.

You do not need to contact your spouse or their attorney. Your attorney can respond on your behalf. However, if you don’t have an attorney, you will have to respond to yourself.

If you don’t, you risk forfeiting everything, including your legal arguments.

Your response cannot be a simple agreement or denial of the points set out in the divorce papers. You will need to make a comment regarding every aspect raised.

Hire an attorney

If you are planning to hire an attorney, this should ideally be done before you respond to the divorce papers. That way, they can advise you on how to respond. You can ask questions and ensure you are sure of what you are doing.

You should hire an attorney even if you agree with what is written in the divorce papers. The attorney can review the documents and ensure that everything is as it should be.

This double-checking can come in useful if there is an issue later on in proceedings.

If your spouse already has an attorney, you should too. The two legal experts can work together, and it saves any additional arguments and unpleasantness.

Gather documents

When you see your attorney or attend court, you will need certain documents. These are the documents you should have in your home. However, they can often become misplaced, especially if they have not been required for many years. These documents include:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Social security details

There may be other documents that the attorney will want to see. Make sure you ask before you arrive for a meeting. This will save time and effort for all parties.

You will most likely also need to provide evidence of your earnings. This will be payslips, tax returns, bank statements, and perhaps credit card statements too. You need to prove not only what goes into your bank account, but what comes out of it also.

Protect your assets

It may seem something of a pre-emptive strike, but protecting your assets is essential. In some cases, judges will call for assets to be frozen as soon as proceedings begin. You may need to remove enough money to live on if this is going to be the case.

On the subject of protecting things, what is happening with your mail? If it is still being sent to your family home, it is best to get it redirected. You can hire a mailbox if that is more convenient or comfortable for you than using your own address. This might be the case if you are sharing with others, and you want to protect your important mail.

Conclusion

Divorce papers may be welcome or unwelcome. They may be expected or unexpected. They may come soon as a breakup or many years down the line. However, and whenever they arrive, they need to be acknowledged.

Even if you don’t want the divorce, you will need to respond to the papers. And, despite the emotional impact that divorce can have, you will need to stay calm.

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