You’ve Been Served…The 7 Worst Things You Can Do After Receiving Divorce Papers

Being served with divorce papers can be very stressful even if you know it’s coming. When you are not expecting it, it can be terrifying. Becoming emotional is to be expected but letting your emotions guide your decisions can lead to disaster.

  • Panicking or lashing out at your spouse for filing divorce papers


Bad behavior (even if  an isolated occasion) almost always comes to the attention of the court in litigation. You do not want the Court’s first impressions of you to be tainted by a one-time negative incident. In general, litigants do not appear before a Judge very often in divorce cases so first impressions are very important and may be the only chance you get to make an impression

  •  Thinking You Don’t Need an Attorney

Many people think that they can’t afford an attorney or that their divorce will be simple enough to “go it alone”. Schedule a consultation with an attorney. Many attorneys will provide you with a free consultation (sometime by phone with evening hours so you don’t have to take time off from work). If you were served personally (the  complaint was hand  delivered to you or left with someone at your home) time limits under the court rules are already in effect. If you do not answer the complaint in time, you may be considered in “default” and the Judge could limit or take away your right to appear in Court and present your own case.

If you were served by mail and the mail contains and Acknowledgement of Service or your spouse asks you to sign an Acknowledgment of Service, make an appointment for a free consultation with an attorney before you do so to give yourself a little extra time.

  • Thinking You Can Resolve Your Case in Mediation Without an Attorney

Mediation can often be a very helpful process to resolve some or all of the issues in your case. However, doing so without consulting with an experienced Matrimonial Attorney always begs the question: How do I know what to ask for in mediation? How do I know what is fair?

  • Letting Your Spouse Take Financial Documents Out of the Home

If possible, do not allow your spouse to leave with all of the financial documents. Gather as many financial documents as possible and copy them. This is especially true if your spouse has not moved out yet and may remove the papers while you are away from home. While attorneys are able to recreate the financial picture in most cases, the process can be time consuming and expensive.  You can avoid the costs if you can maintain equal access to financial documents.

  • How Could This Happen?!? – Ignoring the Complaint Hoping it Will Go Away

If you find the prospect of being divorced debilitating or so emotionally upsetting that you feel paralyzed, you are not alone. Divorce can be a very traumatic experience. It is not easy to accept that “I do” is now “I don’t want to anymore”.  Get a referral for counseling right away and do your best to make an appointment to consult with a lawyer and keep that appointment.

Many family law attorneys can refer to therapists who have helped other clients. By taking small steps, you can quickly find a “team” that will help you get through the legal and emotional challenges you will face during divorce.

  • Selling or Moving From Your Home Because Your Spouse Demands It

Do not agree to put your house on the market  and sign a listing agreement ( unless you are certain you want to sell it). There are many topics you will want to discuss in your divorce consultation with a lawyer. Is there is a strategy available that will enable you to  keep the marital home? How can you get the best price for your home? Can your spouse force a sale? What if  the home was purchased before marriage and/or is exclusively in your own name?

Do not move into  housing that is below the marital standard of living to  save money. Doing so can compromise overnight parenting time if that is an issue in your case. It can also affect the payment or receipt of alimony. Attorneys are able to take a matter to court within approximately one  month of the service of a divorce complaint to ask the court to make a financial order that best approximates the standard of living during the marriage. This is known as a pendente lite order.

  • We Should Get Rid of Our Joint Debt Using Whatever Funds Are Available

Do not pay off marital debt from non-marital funds. Many times a party will use exempt funds (premarital or inheritance for example) to pay off debt that was acquired for marital reasons. Marital debt should be paid by both parties, but if you payoff the debt thinking that it will make the divorce process easier, it is more difficult to negotiate the shared payment and more difficult to have a Court address previously paid debt.

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