Getting served with legal papers is never pleasant, and can be a nerve-wracking experience even if you knew your spouse was planning on filing for divorce. When your soon-to-be-former spouse has you served with papers, you need to take certain steps to protect your rights before it is too late.
Read the Papers
The initial divorce paperwork will consist of a petition and a summons. The summons is the shorter of the two forms, and will provide a short summary telling you what type of petition is being filed (divorce, separation, annulment, etc.), the court where the case is located, the name of the judge in your case, how many days you have in order to file a response, and where that response must be filed.
The petition will lay out the grounds for the divorce and the assets of the marriage. The petition will list the children of the marriage, the property of the marriage, the debts and liabilities of the marriage, and a wide variety of other things, like whether or not a restraining order was requested.
By reading through the paperwork, you will have a better understanding of what your former spouse is seeking in the pending divorce.
Check For A Date
Every petition and summons will be stamped with the date that you were served. In general, you (or your attorney) will have 20 days from that date to file an appearance and response to the petition. When you receive your paperwork, always check for this date and make a note of when your response must be received. If you fail to file a response or hire an attorney to respond for you, you can miss important hearings and lose out on the right to participate in your divorce case.
File A Response If Necessary
It is always better to hire an experienced family law attorney to respond to any legal documents on your behalf. However, if the deadline is running out and you cannot hire an attorney before the 20 days are up, the county clerk’s office where your divorce was filed can often help you file a short response which can buy you a little more time to find and hire an attorney.
Always See An Attorney
After you have read the petition, take it to an experienced family law attorney. With the help of an attorney, you can make sure that you have legal representation attending every important hearing and meeting, and that your rights are protected.
In addition to the legal benefits of hiring an attorney, a knowledgeable family law firm like Pacific Northwest Family Law can also help you and your former spouse use alternative dispute resolution techniques like arbitration, mediation, and collaborative law to resolve your differences in an amicable way, saving you both money on court costs and attorneys’ fees.
The family law attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law take great pride in helping all kinds of couples create a divorce agreement that helps their family move forward with their lives. Our experienced Washington state attorneys can help you make sure that you are protected if your relationship ends, and will work to help you negotiate nearly every type of legal family matter.
For an initial consultation with one of our Washington family law attorneys, call 509-572-3700 today.