If you've just been formally served divorce papers, you shouldn't just toss them aside and hope it goes away. There are several things you should do that you may not be aware of.
Find The Response Due Date
The person receiving the divorce papers will need to make a formal response to the petition. While the time frame varies between states, expect about a month to respond to the paperwork.
If you choose not to respond, know that the divorce will continue without you. A judge will be responsible for dividing up marital assets, rather than handle it through mediation. This means you will lose a lot of control over what happens to things you jointly own with your spouse.
Read Everything Carefully
You'll want to read the documentation carefully, especially if you're not in communication with your spouse. The paperwork may have been filed in another county if your spouse has moved, and you'll learn the contact information for your spouse's attorney if they have one. You'll also get information about splitting shared assets, spousal support if necessary, and desires for splitting custody.
Find A Lawyer
At this point, you'll need to find a lawyer to help deal with the divorce case. You may not be able to hire a lawyer for the whole process, which is okay. You can still use the help of a lawyer to handle legal tasks, which includes filing paperwork that is too complicated to understand. If your spouse will be using a lawyer, it will be best to hire one as well, so that things can be on a level playing field.
Collect Your Documentation
You'll need to start gathering documentation related to your assets. This includes current bank account statements, credit card bills, taxes owed, and documentation of anything else that could be brought up in mediation or court. Not providing documentation of things assets your spouse isn't aware of could be considered hiding assets, which may result in those being taken away. It all depends on your state laws and how they rule on hiding assets.
Start Creating Your Own Financial Accounts
Now is the time to open your own bank account, credit card, and insurance policies in your own name. If you are not living at home, you may want to forward mail to a new address to make sure you do not miss any important letters or documents received in the mail.
For more information, contact your local divorce law services.