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What to do when you are Served with a Divorce Petition

When a person is served with a divorce petition they are often left feeling afraid and unsure of what to do next. There are a few things that should be done within a few days of being served with divorce papers:

  1. Read every word of every document you are served with.
  2. Repeat step number one until you feel like you understand what the documents mean.
  3. Make an appointment with a family law attorney in your area. Be sure to advise the person you are setting your appointment with that you were served with a petition (and any other documents that were included). Provide the appointment-setter with the date you were served, and when you must respond to the petition by. It will usually be twenty days from the date you were served.
  4. Spend the time between when you are served and your appointment going through all your affairs. Make copies of documents related to your assets, debts, children, income, and your spouse’s income. Keep the copies well organized and ready for reference at your first appointment.
  5. Create a list of questions you want to ask the attorney at your first meeting.
  6. At your initial meeting with an attorney you will want to discuss the three (more likely only the first two) options you have in responding to the petition: (a) you may respond with a response to petition; (b) you can respond with a counter-petition asking the court for different relief than that requested in the petitioner’s petition; and (c) you can do nothing. In most cases, this is the worst choice you could make. It can result in a default judgment in favor of the petitioner without the court hearing your side of the story.

As you can see you do have options when you are served with divorce papers. You can choose to hire an attorney, or choose to represent yourself. You can choose to complete a response to the petition or a counter-petition. In most cases, the only thing you shouldn’t do is nothing. If you do nothing you may lose rights and benefits you didn’t even know you have. The effects of having a judgment entered without your input are likely to be detrimental and enduring.

If you have been served and you want to discuss your case with a Seattle family law attorney, please contact us.