I Got Served Divorce Papers, What to Do?
I hope you will not be randomly served with divorce papers. Divorce is one of the highest stressors in life, and when people do things like ambush the other side with divorce papers, they are guaranteeing themselves a nasty battle with big legal fees.
If You are Served With Divorce Papers, Do this
Am I Being Served?
Process of service refers to when a stranger (or person over the age of 18 who isn’t your ex) hands you papers. Do not confuse this with receiving a package in the mail with a Notice of Acknowledgement of Receipt. The first notice to you must be handed to you in person. Mail/email/text is not sufficient.
If you receive a letter in the mail, it is probably from your ex’s attorney, requesting that you sign for the papers so he does not have to formally serve you.
If I were you, I would probably not sign anything until I have consulted with an attorney.
Take the Papers
You may be tempted to dodge service. Don’t. In America, you have due process – the right to notice and opportunity to be heard. Don’t be an ostrich. It’s better to know than not know that your wife has filed for divorce.
Read the Papers
Review the papers carefully. Is it merely a flesh wound (Petition for Dissolution) or a more serious Request for Order with an actual court date? If you have received a Petition for Dissolution, it should include the following: FL-100; Summons, and Family Law Case Cover Sheet. If you have minor children, it should also include the FL-105.
There will be a court assignment and directives, like an Order to Exchange Financial Information.
Once you have been served with the Petition for Dissolution, you have 30 days to file a Response.
If you have also been served with a Request for Order, that means there is a court hearing. Your response is due 9 court days before the hearing. To figure out court days, visit the Court Calendar Calculator.
Don’t know if you have a court date? If your case is in Los Angeles County, you can look up case status here.
What If I Don’t Respond?
If you do not respond to the Petition within the 30-day deadline, your spouse can file a Request for Default. She can then seek a default judgment, which means she can get everything she is requesting, based on the evidence she submits.
If you do not respond to the Request for Order by the court deadline, the Judge may issues against you, such as custody and support.
Interview Lawyers and Mediators
The divorce papers should indicate whether or not your spouse is represented. If so, you should immediately schedule an initial consultation with a reputable family law attorney, preferably a Certified Family Law Specialist.
If your spouse is representing herself, you may want to consider divorce mediation. You do not have to be on speaking terms with your spouse – however, when you call our office, you will be sent an email explaining Divorce Mediation that you can then forward to your spouse. Many issues can be by hiring a competent neutral mediator. You will benefit from the certainty of the process, as well as reduced legal fees. (The average Los Angeles firm charges at least $7,500 – $25,000 for a retainer, the average hourly rate of a Certified Family Law Specialist is between $400 – $1,000 per hour). In contrast, divorce mediation fees start at around $3,500 to be shared between you and your spouse, and document preparation fees $2,500 and up.
Do Not Play the Victim Card
If you’ve been ambushed, it’s natural to feel hurt and angry. I don’t blame you for feeling like a victim for a day. However, it is essential that before you hire a divorce lawyer, you try your best to rid your victim mentality. Focus on getting through your divorce and your bright future instead of getting revenge on your ex. Focus on loving your children and allowing them to have the happy childhood they deserve.