It doesn’t matter how you received them, whether by mail or by a process server knocking on your door. What matters, when you receive divorce papers from your spouse, is how you respond.
You may be reeling emotionally. Or perhaps you knew this was coming and are bitterly resigned to move forward. Regardless of your circumstances, you have to figure out how to respond.
Read papers and hire an attorney
Here are some of the initial steps to take after receiving divorce papers:
- Try to keep a calm head: Many things may be rushing through your head. Take five deep breaths and accept this situation. Do not contact your estranged spouse. The divorce papers represent your spouse’s perspective and that will not change.
- Carefully read the divorce papers: By thoroughly reading the documents, you will discover the required steps you must take. Look for critical elements such as the deadlines you must meet and any particular details that may include the freezing of your financial accounts. Topics such as time-sharing, parenting plans and equitable distribution will be addressed. The documents will contain a great amount of personal information, so do not be alarmed.
- Hire an attorney: Do your research as well as get references from trusted friends, family and colleagues. But don’t hesitate in choosing an attorney – especially if your estranged spouse already has one. Navigating the legal system may be difficult on your own, so you need a legal ally. An experienced attorney will provide insight and advocacy to help you through the divorce process.
- Collect all important documents: The list should include financial records such as tax returns, mortgage statements, pay stubs, deeds to your homes and motor vehicles (to prove ownership), and information on your bank, investment and retirement accounts. This will help determine marital and non-marital property. Your estranged spouse’s attorney likely will ask for these documents as well.
Preparation is essential. The divorce papers may have given you the kickstart you needed. But you understand that there will be many more steps to take.
Act promptly to get the guidance you need
The experience of receiving divorce papers may weigh on you psychologically for a long time to come. It may raise issues you’ll want to explore with a therapist. But to protect your legal interests you must promptly act by taking the initial steps in the divorce process. An empathetic and experienced divorce attorney can provide the necessary guidance.