What should I do if I am served with divorce papers?

Posted on September 8, 2008 by Gail Otis

Service of divorce papers means that someone, typically a constable, has handed you documents filed by your spouse. The documents usually include a copy of:

  • the complaint for divorce
  • a summons
  • a blank financial statement
  • a tracking assignment which indicates who your judge will be, and
  • information about a rule which prohibits you and your spouse from transferring, selling, or otherwise disposing of marital assets during the divorce and until it has been resolved.

There may also be a Motion for Temporary Orders included, with notice of the date, time and place of the hearing for the motion. Temporary Orders can be agreed upon by parties or decided by the Judge. These Orders, once established, usually remain in place for the duration of the divorce proceedings, until the divorce is concluded by Agreement or by trial. It is very important, therefore, to be certain that your requests and/or concerns are presented at the hearing. A Motion for Temporary Orders often addresses the following issues/requests, and can include others as well:

  • who has legal and physical custody of the minor children, if any;
  • hether child and/or spousal (alimony) support is paid and, if so, how much;
  • who maintains health, dental, and life insurance for the benefit of the other party and children and who pays for it;
  • who gets to use the former marital home during the divorce and who pays the expenses;
  • a parenting plan for each parent to spend time with the children;
  • who must pay for the extracurricular costs/activity expenses of the children; and
  • who must pay for the uninsured medical/dental expenses of each party.

Within twenty (20) days of being served, you are required to 1) file an answer to the Complaint, in which you respond to each allegation made by your spouse in their complaint, and 2) serve a copy of the answer to your spouse's attorney or, if your spouse is not represented by an attorney, to your spouse.

If you, too, wish to seek a divorce, you are required to file your counterclaim, at the same time that you file your answer to your spouse's complaint. In your counterclaim, you must set out all factual data in separate paragraphs, as well as the legal basis for your counterclaim and the relief you are seeking from the Court. The answer and counterclaim are contained within the same legal document. Both must be served upon your spouse's attorney or your spouse, if s/he is unrepresented.

You may also wish to file your own Motion for Temporary Orders, as indicated above, in which you request specific Orders from the Court. Again, once put in place, these are Orders that both parties and the family, if there are children, must live with for the duration of the divorce proceedings. It is always advisable to seek advice from an experienced family law attorney upon receipt of divorce papers and certainly well in advance of any hearing scheduled in your case.

Divorce Tags: alimony, Child Support, counterclaim, custody, Divorce, financial statement, insurance, summons, temporary orders Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)

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