What should you do if you have just been served with a divorce petition?
First, take a deep breath and look at the situation as a new beginning. This may be easier said than done but adjusting your attitude in a positive way will go a long way in resolving the situation quickly without spending a fortune in legal costs. Remember, a divorce can be highly stressful so it is important to stay calm and focus on getting things settled as quickly as possible so you can move on with your life.
Although a divorce is a highly emotional event it is also one of the biggest financial matters you will see in your lifetime so wise decisions are needed to maximize your financial security.
Once you’re in a better frame of mind it is time to look over the divorce complaint closely. It is extremely important for you to read through all the documents. Take your time. Are the claims accurate?
Most divorce petitions are pretty general without a lot of information that is specific. There may be other documents regarding how child support is calculated and an affidavit filed by your spouse that sets out income, expenses and debts. There can be a lot of legal consequences and you need to retain an attorney right away to review them because some take effect immediately.
Now it’s time to go through the entire complaint again and take notes on all the items you agree and disagree with. If you find most of the items are minimal in nature you could be in a position to work out a simple agreement with your spouse on each point. If some claims look troublesome think about negotiating with other items so you look like you are compromising. This is the art of reciprocation – if you are being fair and reasonable your spouse may return the favor.
You shouldn’t spend too much time on this review before seeing your attorney. You only have 21 days to file a response to the petition before you are in default. A default complicates the proceedings quite a bit, meaning you will have additional attorney fees.
There are things you will not be able to anticipate without the help of your attorney. Most people divide assets and debts but are not aware that there needs to be parenting plans for how and by whom the children are raised, division of retirement plans, tax planning and other issues are just a few of the items that you cannot anticipate, yet need to be addressed. Your attorney will help with knowing what questions need to be asked and what issues need to be settled.
Obviously, it is in your best interests, both mentally and financially, to reach an agreement and get on with your life rather than spend months watching your case drag on while your life is on hold. An attorney experienced in family law can smooth your course, take some of the stress from the situation and make certain you are getting all that you are legally entitled to.