Steps to Take After Being Served with Divorce Papers

Being served with divorce papers can stir up a variety of emotions, especially if you were not aware that your spouse wanted to end your marriage. Once you are served, there are certain steps you must take to ensure that your interests are protected throughout the proceedings.

Stay Calm

Being served with divorce papers unexpectedly can be emotionally traumatic. You may feel angry, upset, or like you are going to lose control. To avoid going into a panic, you can and should focus on processing the situation logically and legally.

While acknowledging your feelings is an important step toward acceptance and healing, preparing yourself for the divorce action must come first. It is imperative that you schedule an appointment to meet with a local matrimonial attorney as soon as possible. Doing so will help to put your mind at ease, and will ensure your interests are taken care of as the divorce case proceeds.

Were You Properly Served?

New York state has strict guidelines for serving divorce documents. The most commonly accepted form of service is referred to as “personal service.” This form of document service must be completed by a person who is not a party to the action. Typically, a representative from a process serving company will complete this task. Alternatively, a third party friend or family member may serve the documents upon you. Whoever fulfills the role of process server must be 18 years of age or older.

What Documents Were You Served?

Before meeting with an attorney to discuss your best course of action, you should determine what documents you were served. Examine the documents, paying special attention to the case caption at the top of the first page. If your spouse has filed for divorce, then you will either have received a Summons and Verified Complaint, or a Summons with Notice. These documents are different and require different actions. A Notice of Automatic Orders will be attached to the documents that you are served.

A Summons and Verified Complaint outlines the reasons for the divorce, as well as any requests for spousal or child support and custody. You will have 20 days from the date of service to file your Answer with the County Clerk’s Office, and have it served upon your spouse. This document allows you to “answer” the points outlined in your spouse’s Complaint.

A Summons with Notice does not list grounds for the divorce, nor does it include additional requests related to the divorce action. If served a Summons with Notice, you have 20 days to file a Notice of Appearance with the County Clerk’s Office.

Consult with a Divorce Attorney

You should always speak with a New York City divorce attorney before answering a Summons. During your initial consultation, you will be able to discuss the details of your case with a lawyer, who will outline the best steps to take to reach a desirable and fair outcome.

There are countless benefits to retaining experienced legal counsel. Drafting and filing court documents can be tricky, and there is a lot of room for error. A knowledgeable matrimonial lawyer will be able to accurately manage your case. Even if you think your divorce is uncontested, there is always a chance that an issue or disagreement will arise between parties during the action. If this happens, an experienced divorce lawyer can draw upon their extensive experience and use their negotiation and litigation skills to advocate on your behalf.

Proceeding with a divorce or child custody matter without an attorney is possible, but it will be an uphill battle that we do not recommend.

Monitor Shared Accounts

Many couples share finances and have joint marital assets. It is important to monitor shared financial accounts to make sure that your soon-to-be ex-spouse is not trying to steal or hide assets. Automatic Orders strictly prohibit this practice, and all parties to a divorce in New York state are bound by these orders. Skewed financial reports can negatively impact reported marital assets and lower the amount of money you may receive in alimony or child support payments. A judge will not look favorably on someone who is attempting to hide or liquidate assets, and this may work to your advantage.

If you suspect that your spouse is behaving in violation of the Automatic Orders, this is called being “in contempt,” and you must discuss these concerns with your divorce attorney immediately. Your lawyer will be able to file a motion with the court that will order your spouse to cease their actions immediately.

Aggressive New York Representation

At the law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates, P.C., we make it our goal to provide aggressive and intelligent representation to all of our clients. We understand the tough situation you and your children face, and we do not want you to go through the process alone. We are committed to fighting for your best interests. Let our stellar track record work for you by scheduling a free and confidential consultation. Our offices are conveniently located in Brooklyn Heights and Midtown Manhattan, and we serve all of the five boroughs and Long Island. Call our friendly staff at (718) 875-7584 or (646) 791-3228 today.

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