Getting served with divorce papers might be confusing and stressful, to say the least. If you are served with divorce papers, you would be best advised to maintain a cool head as well as to avoid calling your spouse in anger. Refraining from any contact with your spouse for the moment is the best course, as any contact could adversely affect your case.
Before commencing on the topic of what to do when served with divorce papers, it is important to point out that, under Florida law, the divorce papers must be served on you by the sheriff, or a person designated by the sheriff, in the county where you are located. Furthermore, the individual serving the papers cannot just leave them at your mailbox; rather, the paperwork must either be delivered to you personally or copies of it left at your house.
If you are served with the divorce papers, it is important for you to have at least some background understanding of what they might contain. The papers will include a Summons, which is basically a legal notice informing you that there has been a divorce lawsuit filed against you. The papers will also include another important document called a Petition for Divorce, which is basically a request to the court to grant a divorce. The petition will also lay out the issues that need to be resolved, which might include asset division, parenting, alimony, child support, and fees and costs.
Your options when served with Divorce Papers
Generally speaking, when you are served with divorce papers in Florida, there are two clear options for you. You can either ignore them or you can respond to them. If you ignore the divorce papers, this will likely result in a default judgment in favor of your spouse. This is not something any qualified divorce attorney would recommend in most circumstances. If you do not file an answer, you will be placed in default by the court. This will result in extremely adverse consequences for you, as your spouse will be able to ask the Court for whatever he or she wants regarding the terms of the divorce.
If you want to respond to the divorce papers, however, you only have 20 days to do so as per Florida law. In that regard, you should do your best to hire an experienced Stuart, FL divorce attorney so that an appropriate Answer can be filed. You must Answer all the allegations in the Petition, which must be either admitted or denied. Along with your Answer, you can also file a counterclaim, in which you can make your own request for a divorce on any applicable grounds. After an Answer has been filed, relevant evidence will need to be accumulated which can include varied things like bank statements, pay checks, etc. Furthermore, under Florida law there are certain documents that must be filed, like financial affidavits and tax returns.
Additionally, it is critical to keep in mind that just because you have filed an Answer does not mean you cannot reach a settlement. By filing an Answer you are simply protecting your rights, but you can still reach a mutually agreeable settlement if the other side is willing to as well. If the case does not settle, then it will take its natural course in the legal system. How long the legal process takes before being resolved can depend on multiple factors, including how complicated your case is. The more issues at dispute, the longer it will typically take.
Do you have more divorce questions? Explore our Divorce FAQ page.
Contact an experienced divorce attorney
If you have been served with divorce papers, then reach out to the experienced family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Travis R. Walker. We are skilled in handling all types of divorces, whether they be contested divorces or uncontested, and will work with you to develop the best strategy for your situation.