I've Been Served With Divorce Papers, What Do I Do Next?
So you’ve been served with divorce papers. Maybe you were expecting them, maybe you weren’t, but your emotions are probably running high and you’re concerned about what to do next. First, you should remain calm but act quickly to get your affairs in order. Some of the primary considerations are obtaining a good family law attorney to represent you, developing a response to the complaint for divorce and securing your finances.
The first thing you want to do after being served with divorce papers is hire a knowledgeable family law attorney—like those at the DiPietro Family Law Group—to guide you and represent you through the divorce process. Because issues like property and asset division, decisions over spousal support, child custody and child support will likely all be a part of your divorce proceeding, it is important to hire an attorney who will advocate for your rights and the outcome you desire. An attorney will also know if you should hire experts to testify on your behalf (property appraisers, for example) and if you need any other witnesses in your case.
Once you have hired an attorney, you need to work with your attorney to develop a response, or Answer, to the divorce Complain. In Virginia, you have 21 days from being served with the divorce petition to file an Answer. The Answer should address any of the allegations contained in the divorce petition (for example, maybe your spouse alleged one of the fault based grounds for divorce such as adultery, cruelty or desertion). You should also include any requests for spousal support or alimony, and consider detailing how you would like assets divided in your Answer so that you do not waive your rights to these payments or property.
After you have filed an Answer, you should take a hard look at your finances and what you want your financial situation to look like after divorce. Review your financial records and personal, as well as joint assets carefully. Consider doing away with joint bank accounts titled in you and your spouse’s names, and take an inventory of what personal and real property that is important to you and that you want to walk away with once the divorce is finalized. Communicate your desires specifically and clearly to your attorney so that he or she can do their best to get you what you want.
You may also want to cut back on expenses while your divorce is pending. You cannot be guaranteed any specific amount of alimony or spousal support, and you will most likely have to pay your attorney’s fees and court costs. In addition, your financial outlook after divorce may be somewhat uncertain while the divorce is pending.
Finally, if you have minor children with your spouse, try to consider their point of view. Divorce can be hard on children, so try to minimize the anxiety and fear that they are feeling by avoiding bashing your spouse in front of the kids or bringing them into fights with your spouse – even if your spouse is engaging in this behavior. By avoiding this type of behavior, you can avoid any issues with the court and your children will respect and thank you later. If your children are old enough, you may also want to take their desires as to child custody and visitation schedules into consideration.
Being served with a divorce petition does not need to be a tumultuous or fearsome time for you. While the help of a good family law attorney, you can act swiftly, diligently and responsibly when answering the petition and formulating a plan for how you want your post-divorce life to look like.
If you are considering filing for divorce or have recently been served with divorce papers, you need the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney who you can count on to guide you through the divorce process. At the DiPietro Family Law Group, our attorneys have years of experience representing clients in divorce and all other family law issues, and we are here to provide you with compassionate and quality legal services. Call us today for a consultation at (888) 530-4374 or contact us online.