The dissolution of a marriage is rarely easy and once served with divorce papers, the overwhelming weight of reality can prove difficult. While you don’t have to act immediately, choosing your next steps in order to act quickly and decisively to protect your rights is critical.
To make this difficult situation slightly more manageable, we’ve put together this list of the five steps you should take upon being served divorce papers.
- Understand The Documents. When you’re served, you receive a Summons and a Complaint. A court summons tells a defendant that s/he is being sued and asserts the power of the court to hear and determine the case. It will also explain your obligations, such as required court appearances.
- Prepare To Respond. Once served, you’ve got a finite amount of time to respond to the petition of divorce. Take the first few days to gather yourself emotionally – and avoid contacting your spouse in a heightened state of anger or upset.
- Know Your Deadline. The clock starts immediately once you’re served and you will have 20 days to respond. If you fail to answer and counterpetition within that allotted time frame, an attorney can file a motion to answer out of time and ask the judge for permission to file an answer in the case.
- Retain Legal Representation. Secure legal representation within the first week of being served. Don’t wait to speak with an experienced divorce attorney and don’t assume that you can represent yourself through what can often be a difficult and emotionally taxing process. You need a divorce attorney who is representing your best interest.
- Get Organized. Gather important financial documents and make copies of tax returns, credit card statements, bank statements, and retirement accounts that can be used to show assets and debts. If children are involved, it’s a good idea to also copy birth certificates, medical records, school and daycare records, and insurance cards which can help you determine the need for spousal support.
Although it’s understandably overwhelming to be handed divorce papers, don’t panic – but do recognize that being served is a critical time in your legal case. Try to put emotions aside and instead make swift, calculated and rational decisions to better position yourself for a favorable outcome.
The divorce and family attorneys at Anton Castro Law understand that the end of a marriage will be a difficult and painful experience so we approach each of our family law cases with empathy and understanding to help you reach an equitable resolution. We are also prepared to aggressively take a stand for you and fight for your rights in court should the need arise.
Tampa divorce attorney Christina Anton Garcia and her team of marital and family attorneys have extensive experience handling all family law issues that stem from the dissolution of a marriage, including alimony, child custody, child support, property division, and divorce. Call her today for an experienced family law attorney dedicated to ‘Representing Your Best Interests.’