What To Do if You Were Served Divorce Papers
Unfortunately, divorce is an all too common and sad reality for many couples. The decision to divorce may be made jointly between spouses, or it may be primarily one spouse’s decision. Regardless of who wants the divorce, once the decision has been made, the legal process of ending the marriage soon follows.
The divorce process begins with one individual, or both parties, filing divorce papers with the Florida Court. In many cases, one spouse will initiate the divorce process and will serve the other spouse with papers.
If you have recently been served divorce papers, here are some important things to know.
- Petition Parties. The person filing the divorce is known as the petitioner and the other party is known as the respondent. The divorce paperwork filed with the court is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and must be filed with the circuit court in the appropriate county. Once the petition is filed with the court, the court will return a copy of the paperwork to the petitioner to serve upon the respondent.
- You Have Been Served. Once you are served, the clock starts ticking . . . Once you, as the respondent, are served with a copy of the petition, your next step should be to contact a family law attorney as soon as possible.Once served with the petition, you must file an answer within 20 days of the date you were served with the papers. Failure to do so may result in a default and the court may grant the petitioner everything he or she asks for.
- Agree or Disagree. Your response to the paperwork is not an opportunity to tell the court each and every reason why you should not get a divorce or why your spouse is a horrible human being. Rather, you must file a numbered document responding to each and every paragraph of the petition with a simple “Agree” or “Disagree”. If you disagree with a statement, then you must provide a brief reason as to why the statement is untrue. Again, this is not a time to bash your spouse or get personal or emotional.
- “Wave” Your Rights Goodbye. If you do not respond timely and appropriately to the petition, then you may waive your rights to certain things and you may unwittingly agree to certain conditions.
- The Cross Petition. Often, the respondent will file a Cross-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in addition to filing an answer. The cross-petition is formatted in the same manner as a petition. Again, this is not an opportunity to explain to the court everything that is wrong with your spouse and why he or she should get nothing in the divorce. It is merely a numbered document that sets forth the general basis for why the divorce should be granted and the rights you are seeking.
In this document, you do not ask for specific amounts of spousal and/or child support or a specific parenting plan or specific property. You simply request that the court issue an order regarding these issues. But, it is important to note that you must ask the court to address the issues.
As you can see, it is very important that you appropriately and timely respond to the service of divorce papers. This can be an emotional and confusing process, but a reputable and experienced family law attorney will assist you in completing the necessary documents.
He or she will also ensure that your rights are protected in the divorce process, and that you have the guidance and direction you need along the way.
Also Read : Equitable Distribution in the Divorce Process