What to Do When You’ve Been Served with Divorce Papers

Whether you were expecting to receive divorce papers or they took you by surprise, being served with the process can be overwhelming and stressful. It’s important to be aware that there are certain steps you should take to ensure your rights are protected. As an initial matter, you may need to take a day or two to get a hold of your emotions. However, it’s essential not to delay contacting legal counsel — you only have a limited amount of time to respond to the summons and complaint.

Read the Divorce Papers Thoroughly

After you’ve received the summons and complaint, read the papers carefully to understand what your spouse is asking for. While much of the language will be standard, there will also be allegations specific to your case. In your Answer, you will have the opportunity to make counterclaims and respond to the allegations. The papers will also include information about the Automatic Restraining Orders put into place prohibiting you from transferring, selling, or removing property or assets.

Contact a Qualified Divorce Attorney

No matter how simple your divorce case might seem, it’s best to have an attorney on your side to ensure your legal rights are safeguarded. They can also help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case. An attorney will also evaluate your case and determine whether it’s best for you to proceed through the litigation process or if your case might be suitable to resolve using an alternative dispute resolution method.   

Respond to the Divorce Papers

Significantly, you only have 20 days to respond to the papers if you were personally served — 30 days if you were served by any other means. Failure to respond within the required amount of time can result in a default judgment being issued against you. In such cases, all relief requested by your spouse would be granted to them. It’s crucial to have the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney who can help you understand the document you’ve been served and draft a response.     

Start Gathering Financial Information and Documentation

Whether your case is going through litigation or will be settled outside of court in mediation, full financial disclosure is necessary. Since it can take a considerable amount of time to gather financial documents, it’s best to begin as early in the process as possible. This includes things such as bank statements, tax returns, life insurance policies, mortgage documents, credit card statements, stock information, and any other financial documentation.                    

Make a List of Your Marital and Separate Property      

In addition to collecting your financial documents, you will need to make a list of property and assets owned by you and your spouse. Notably, you should divide it into two categories — property you owned before the marriage and that which you acquired during the marriage. New York follows the rule of equitable distribution. This means that property isn’t divided equally, but rather in a way deemed fair. Your attorney can help you reach a fair agreement regarding how your property should be split.

Contact an Experienced New York City Divorce Lawyer

If you have been served with divorce papers, it’s essential to have a compassionate and knowledgeable divorce attorney who can help you navigate the legal process. The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown LLP has been providing skilled counsel and aggressive advocacy for divorce and family law matters for more than 70 years. Call (212) 425-1999 to schedule a consultation or contact us now.