April is one of the most popular months to file a divorce. It can be stressful to be the spouse who breaks the news, and even more difficult for an unsuspecting spouse who is served with divorce papers. At San Diego Family Mediation Center, we often see clients who are served with papers and don’t quite know how to proceed. Here are a few things you need to do as soon as you are served with court documents from the other party.
Don’t Panic or Get Angry
For some, being served with divorce papers may be entirely surprising. Perhaps you were in marital counseling, and you thought things were taking a turn for the better. Maybe you saw your divorce coming a mile away. Either way, complete panic, anger, or deep sadness is a natural reaction to getting served with a divorce petition. Take a deep breath and try to focus on what to do next. It can be helpful to call family or a friend to talk to about your feelings. Try only to speak with your spouse objectively about the paperwork and if you feel like you or your spouse is losing control, it is best to leave and get some space to process your emotions.
Create a Game Plan
After you are served with the divorce paperwork, you have some options on how you can proceed. You need to respond within 30 days. If you do not respond, your spouse can receive a default divorce and everything that is requested in the divorce petition will be granted. However, you can discuss divorce mediation as an option to proceed with your divorce. Mediation consists of you and your spouse sitting down with an experienced mediator to create your own solutions rather than going through the court system. A mediator can complete all your legal paperwork and write a marital settlement agreement that is treated exactly like a court order. Mediation is often cheaper than going through an attorney and typically ends with a better relationship post-divorce.
No Mediation? Complete Your Response
If your spouse does not want to use mediation as the method to complete your divorce, you must go through the court system. If you don’t agree with what your spouse has asked for in the petition, you will want to complete your response paperwork. West Coast Family Mediation Center can assist you in filling out your response and file it for you. If you need an attorney, we have several contacts in the community that can help you with a contested case.
Divorce Paper Preparation
For more information on what to do when you are served with divorce papers, contact the mediators at West Coast Family Mediation Center to schedule your consultation.
by: Amanda Singer