You've Been Served with Divorce Papers: Now What?
By Divorce Attorney Marcia Blake, May 18 2016 02:54PM
Dealing with separation and divorce is a difficult plight for even the strongest of us but it is especially mind boggling for those who never saw it coming. You’ve provided your family with a safe and happy home for years then suddenly, you are served….s/he wants a divorce.
The unfortunate reality is that many families find themselves in this very situation. Crippled with the questions of why, how, when, can I fix it? The unsuspecting party rarely wants to contend with the legal procedures involved in a divorce. This Blog post serves to offer some navigation tips for the unsuspecting party.
Once you are served with papers it is important that you consult with an attorney to discuss and explore all your options (Yes you have options!). For some, the shortage of money stands as a barrier to retain legal help, for those people, many organizations provide discounted and in some instances free legal service for those who qualify.
Others, determine that they are competent enough to navigate the divorce process on their own. If this is you, please be mindful that there are important filing timelines amongst other things that must be keenly observed. As my colleague puts it, unless you have no money, no kids, no real estate, and a very short marriage, going the DIY route in your divorce is a very bad idea. Still, if you feel confident to go it alone, the Connecticut Judicial Branch provides a comprehensive and very informative directive on DO IT YOURSELF DIVORCES. See, https://www.jud.ct.gov/Publications/FM179.pdf
Whichever route you choose, a divorce involves many important and often times competing interests. In most cases, you must think about child custody, spousal support, property division…who will keep the dog? Who will maintain the mortgage for the family home? Are you going to sell the home? Where will the children go to school? What about the Wedgewood 19th Century Dinnerware your grandmother left you both? These taken together or even separately often leads to a state of unrest and discord.
Tips when served with divorce papers (Some of these tips assumes that you are self-represented)
Show up! File an appearance in the court, it is not enough to let the court decide without you being there. This is not the time to be docile! Too often one spouse harbors the misguided belief that it is just easier to not participate in the process. If you are not present at the table your interests cannot be protected, it is that simple.
Ask questions! If you decided on the DIY route, when you are unsure about a particular course of action, ask questions. There are many attorneys that will charge a consultation fee to answer the questions that you might have lingering.
Take stock of all properties. Real Estate (the marital home, the rental property), the business, the offshore accounts, and all personal property. Assume it is all to be marital property until and unless a legal professional tells you otherwise.
Do not try to intimidate the other party! Too often, parties to a divorce decides to flex their muscles in the mud. They engage in physical confrontations others turn to social media to vent! It is very easy to play the game of scorn, but remember this is NEVER a good idea! And no, you may not change the locks on the door unless you have a court order to do so. He or she has as much right to the marital home as you do until a court says otherwise or you both have an agreement on the issue.
Do not put your children in the midst of it! This is NEVER effective, if anything it works against your ability to maintain a good relationship with your children in the long run.
Be purposeful and intentional about protecting your children. Emotions are high, tempers are flaring, you feel anger and resentment, you want to make him/her pay. These are all common and valid emotions while navigating a divorce but you must do everything possible to reduce your young children’s exposure to any display of such emotions. Protect your children from the emotional turmoil that is sure to ensue from a contested divorce. The long term damages are far reaching and irreversible in many instance. Be mindful of this.
Proceed strategically and do not take cheap shots. Your credibility is always on trial, remember that your actions or inactions also speaks for you. What exactly are you saying to the court when you, in a fit of rage throw his/her personal belongings out on the front porch in the rain?
If you need to, speak to a counselor. A neutral third party can help to give perspective on an issue. They can sometimes help you make sense of things that you are struggling to grasp. You can only benefit.
Be purposeful about living. Do not fall into the mind trap of thinking that your life is over. It is not. As Alan Watts stated, the only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move into it, and join the dance. With that said, be exceptionally kind to yourself!
And, finally remember that this is only a phase (hear me know, believe me later)! It ends, just like there are seasons that comes to a halt making way for the next. A divorce comes to a screeching halt making way for a new life fueled by new dreams and aspirations. But you must first decide to focus on your future and not the past. In any event, proceed with prudence holding your integrity in tact by whatever means necessary.
Please read, relate, and share with anyone that might benefit!
Attorney Marcia P. Blake
"You Have Rights. I Protect Them".