What To Do When You’re Served a Divorce Petition Family Law Blog

What To Do When You’re Served a Divorce Petition

First, don’t panic. It can be scary when served with legal documents, but the key is to stay calm and take the steps outlined below in three phases.

Phase 1:

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Do not contact your spouse right away. Try to wait until you have calmed down and understand what all this means first.
  • Sit down and read completely through the divorce papers a few times. Divorce petitions almost always ask for everything, but don’t panic. This is part of a legal strategy because if you do not ask for it in the petition, then you cannot ask for it later.
  • Take a break. Calls some your friends and family to talk about what has happened.
  • If you have children, it’s important to NOT draw them into any martial conflict. It is better for the children and the court will look favorably on not involving the children.
  • Re-read through all the material again until you have a good understanding of it all.
  • If possible, take the next day of work off. That way you can have a day to process and plan your next steps. Either way, try to get some sleep and be prepared to start step two the next day.
  • REMEMBER: you only have 20 days from the date you were served to respond to the divorce papers. So you have to take action rather quickly.


Phase 2:

  • Always remember that speed is a great tool. Be thorough and move quickly.
  • It is time to hire a divorce attorney. You can take a few days to figure out what attorney works best for you. But remember you have 20 days to respond to the petition. While it can be answered on the 20th day, it is not recommended to put you or an attorney is such a rushed situation. Also, it is best to hire someone who typically handles divorce cases.
  • Locate and collect all your financial information.
    • Makes copies of all your assets, debts owed, properties, deeds and any other finances.
    • Call the IRS to request copies of the last 5 years of your tax returns; it can be a transcript or an exact copy.
    • If you are living in the martial home, it is best to keep these copies in a more secure location.


Phase 3:

  • This is a life-changing event and it’s important to continue to educate yourself about divorce. Read books, attend seminars and talk to other divorce friends.
  • It’s time to get organized.
    • Get a binder or folder to hold and keep all the court documents and any other paperwork related to the divorce.
    • Keep a notebook detailing anything you learn or anything that happens during this process.
    • Make a clear and realistic financial plan for the next year. Make sure you cut out all unnecessary expenses.


Getting through the Divorce Process:

  • Remember you are not alone. Many people have gone through divorces and have come out the other side happier and healthier. Make sure you have a reliable support system, if you don’t have one look for a support group.
  • Stay on top of every part of this process. Make note of all the upcoming court dates and deadlines.
  • Try to start your new life. Whether that means taking new classes or repainting your bedroom. A new adventure may help the transition.

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