Whether it comes as a surprise to you or not, receiving divorce papers from a process server or law enforcement officer can be one of the more frightening experiences of your life.
The process begins with being notified that a lawsuit has been filed against you in court, and a judge is telling you that you need to respond within a certain amount of time. You probably would feel like you haven’t done anything wrong, which adds to your level of unease and apprehension.
The paperwork uses language that appears to be English but is not readable as a newspaper or magazine, either. The instructions you are provided with aren’t straightforward to understand. What should you do if you find yourself in this sort of situation?
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, would like to provide you with some assistance in this matter by offering you some advice on how to handle being served with divorce paperwork. It all means how you need to respond, and some other odds and ends will all be discussed.
Being served with divorce papers- what happens initially
The most important thing that I can tell you today is that you absolutely should not put the pieces aside to deal with them later. That’s not to say you should rush around and o something hasty, but you need to take action once you are served with divorce papers.
Your spouse will have filed for divorce from you by filing an Original Petition for Divorce. This document names who you are and who they are, and your children if they are under the age of 18. The grounds for the divorce (the reason why they are divorcing you) are specified and any specific things requested by the court.
A citation will accompany the Original Petition. This form was generated by the clerk’s office, where the Petition was filed.
It specifies that you have been served with legal documents and that you will need to file an Answer with their office within a specific period. That period in Texas is within twenty days, after the first Monday of being served at 10:00 a.m. This means that you have approximately three weeks to hire an attorney to have an Answer filed or do this yourself.
A professional process server may be the person that delivers the paperwork to you. This person’s job is to collect paperwork from the courthouse and give it to you. They will not provide legal advice and is not divorce attorney.
This person will record the date and time you were served and report back to the courthouse. This information will be utilized to determine the deadline that you have to file your Answer. A law enforcement officer may also be hired to serve you, but for the most part, divorce papers are delivered and served by a process server.
Do you need to hire an attorney once you’ve been served?
A question that you will probably come across if served with divorce papers is whether or not you will need to hire an attorney to represent you. As an attorney working for a family law office here in southeast Texas, I can tell you that many of our current clients were once representing themselves in divorce cases.
The legal process is not rocket science, and I am not here to tell you that you aren’t smart enough or capable enough to represent yourself. However, the work is tedious, time-intensive, and deadline-driven- meaning that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could hurt yourself in the long run and impair your ability to advocate your case.
With that said, if you do decide to hire an attorney, I would recommend that you schedule at least three interviews with lawyers that offer free-of-charge consultations. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, offers free of charge consultations six days a week where our licensed family law attorneys can answer your questions and give you some general advice on how to proceed.
Assuming that you decide to hire an attorney, I recommend that you begin to collect and organize any paperwork that you can that may be relevant in your divorce case.
Bank documents, house documents, taxes, etc., will all be reconciled during your divorce and negotiated upon dividing equity and the contents of any financial accounts. By organizing these papers early on in the process, you are saving yourself and your attorney time and effort down the line.
Your response to their Original Petition
As the responding party, you are known as the “Respondent” just as your spouse is the “Petitioner” based on their having filed the Petition to begin the divorce. The Respondent files an Original Answer, a short and sweet document that alerts the court to be an active part of the case.
If your spouse has hired an attorney, the paperwork can be filed with the court and then e-mailed, faxed, or mailed to the attorney’s office. From there, you and your spouse (through your attorneys) can discuss any issues that may require a temporary orderhearing to manage, such as payment of bills, child visitation, and child support during the divorce. If an agreement can be reached, no temporary orders hearing is required.
Questions about the beginning stages of your divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
Our office is honored to work with clients across southeast Texas to help advocate for their rights and guide them and their families through difficult times. To schedule a free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed divorce lawyers, please do not hesitate to contact our office today.
No divorce is easy, but the experienced and knowledgeable attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will do our best to ensure that your divorce is as pain-free a process as possible.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce“
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