Critical moves to make when served with divorce papers

The home doorbell rang at an unexpected time of night. It was dark, and you did not recognize the person. He was a process server who simply asked for you and when you confirmed your identity, he promptly handed you what turned out to be your divorce papers.

Simultaneously, anger, frustration and relief struck you. However, this incident was not unexpected. For weeks, you have been the subject of your spouse’s coldness, aloofness and petty finger-pointing. Now, you need to figure out how to respond and what to do.

Stay calm, read the documents and hire an attorney

It is time for you to take a level-headed approach once served with divorce papers. Your mission also is taking steps to protect yourself. Here is what you can do:

  • Stay calm: Granted, this may be a challenge with the forcible handing of divorce papers to you. But do what you have to do to clear your head. Take five deep breaths. Take a walk in the neighborhood or even work out at a gym. One thing not to do is attempt to contact your spouse.
  • Thoroughly read the divorce papers: There are many details within these documents, covering matters such as child custody, child support and division of assets. A great amount of personal information will be in these papers, so do not be alarmed. And make sure to stick with the deadlines because you only have a certain amount of time to respond to a divorce petition.
  • Find the right attorney: This is a significant move you must make, especially if you have never been divorced. Cover your bases by doing some research and contacting trusted friends and professional colleagues for attorney referrals. Meet with any prospective attorney who can give you important insight and guide you through the legal process. Find one who is experienced and empathetic.
  • Track down pertinent financial documents: This should include the important tax returns during your married years, whether you filed jointly or separately. Also find mortgage statements, bank statements, investment account statements and documents related to retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs. Make sure to include information on joint and individual accounts. Ultimately, these records will help determine non-marital and marital assets.

In taking these steps, you are ready. Preparation is essential when going through a divorce proceeding.

The steps toward resolution

Do your best to not view this as a competition. Your spouse wants a divorce. You have accepted that, and the divorce papers provide proof. Now, you must respond appropriately in order to make the right steps toward resolution.