What should I do if I’ve been served with divorce papers?


Take a deep breath. Do not panic. Follow our simple six-day plan.

Day one: A process server just served you with divorce papers. This can be embarrassing, infuriating, and depressing. There is only one thing we advise you to do today. Open your calendar and count 20 calendar days from today. Circle this date on your calendar or set an all-day reminder. This is the date your response to the divorce papers is due.

Day two: Begin the process to decide if you can hire an attorney. Many things go into consideration if you can hire an attorney. Can you afford an attorney? Do you have enough money to pay an attorney an advance fee? Do you have available credit on a credit card to use it for legal services? Do you have a family member who can assist you in paying for a lawyer? Do you qualify for legal assistance? Review your finances and decide if you can hire an attorney.

Day three: Begin setting appointments to meet with an attorney. You want to let the attorney know that you have been served with divorce papers and let them know the date your response is due (see Day one). Before setting up the consultation make sure you are informed if there is a consultation fee. Also ask if the attorney suggests you bring any other paperwork with you. You should consider meeting with at least two attorneys to get a feel for different styles of attorneys and who you might feel comfortable working with.

Consultation day: Make sure to come prepared to your consultation. Bring your packet of documents you were served. Please also bring a copy for the attorney or see if you can email it over before your consultation. Make sure to bring any paperwork that was requested of you when you scheduled your consultation. Bring your payment if there is a fee for the consultation. Bring your checkbook just in case you are ready to retain the attorney to represent you. Remember – you only have 20 days.

Once you retain an attorney, ask them when you can expect the response to be filed. Ask to receive a copy of the response (either via U.S. mail or email).

Day 15: This is a good time to confirm that your response will be filed in a timely manner or that the attorney received an extension to file their response at a later time. No one likes to wait until the last minute.

Day 20: Confirm that your response was filed timely. You should have received a copy of the response/answer from your attorney’s office.

Now that your response is done, many courts will steer spouses towards mediation to see if you can resolve your case. You will need to work with your attorney to collect your financial documents (also known as mandatory disclosure) to file everything needed before you can set a mediation date. At mediation, you and your spouse will work with a neutral third-party (a mediator) to see if you can resolve your case between the 2 of you, with your attorneys and the help of the mediator.

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