I Just Got Served with Divorce Papers. Now What? 🤔
Divorce is the last thing you think about when you get married. However, divorce is a common occurrence in Florida and across the nation. In the Sunshine State, about 3.4 for every 1,000 people go through a divorce.
Although it is common, divorce is still a foreign process for most couples. It’s also often a surprise for one spouse, who finds themselves suddenly staring at a stack of divorce papers prepared by their spouse and their lawyer. It is important to have the help of an experienced divorce attorney during such an unfamiliar and trying time.
I Just Got Served with Divorce Papers. Now What?
If you just got served with divorce papers, you are likely surprised and possibly in shock. It’s okay to feel as though a rug has been pulled out from under you. But it is also important to understand that what comes next will have a deep effect on your life for many years.
Hire a Divorce Attorney
Your first step should be to hire an experienced divorce attorney to protect your interests. The divorce process can be long and complicated, and your future livelihood is somewhat on the line. You need a seasoned advocate to ensure that you come out of the divorce in the best position possible.
Once you have been served with divorce papers, a 20-day clock starts ticking. Within these 20 days, you must file an answer to the petition in which you confirm or deny the allegations. Answering also lets the court know that you will be participating in the divorce.
If you choose to ignore your spouse’s petition, you risk the court granting your spouse a default judgment against you. This means that your spouse will essentially get everything they request in the divorce. For this reason, you should file an answer within the 20 days allotted for your response.
You will likely be required to file a financial affidavit detailing all of your assets and liabilities, including:
- Personal property
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Brokerage accounts
- Retirement accounts and pensions
- Debt (commercial, private, tax)
This affidavit must be completed and filed within 45 days of being served papers. Hence, it makes sense to gather all of your financial documents as soon as you have been served. Your family law attorney will help make sure that you have all of the paperwork you need for the affidavit.
Mandatory disclosures are essentially the financial documents that paint a picture of your financial situation, such as:
- Bank account statements
- Tax returns
- Brokerage account statements
- Credit card account statements
You will be required to make these mandatory disclosures in conjunction with your financial affidavit.
If you and your spouse have not come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce, mediation will take place. During mediation, the division of property and child custody issues will be resolved.
A trial in front of a judge may be necessary if you and your spouse still cannot agree to all of the terms after mediation. The judge will make the final decision on unresolved issues and finalize your divorce.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer if You Got Served With Divorce Papers
At The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm, we work diligently to protect your interests during divorce proceedings. Call today for a free consultation.