You've just found out that your spouse wants a divorce. Shortly thereafter you get served by the Sheriff with some paperwork you do not fully understand. This can be an extremely overwhelming and upsetting experience. Although the thought of a divorce will undoubtedly be an emotional experience, this blog post aims to alleviate some of the confusion and stress of getting served with a divorce by explaining the paperwork you've received and the next steps.
First, it is important to understand the paperwork you have received. You will likely receive a document called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage begins the divorce proceedings and will allege several background facts about your marriage, your children, your property, and the breakdown of your marriage. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage will also contain any relief your spouse may be requesting from you, such as maintenance (aka alimony), child support, or exclusive possession of your home. You may also receive a document called a Summons. The Summons simply explains that you have been served with the divorce, that you should file your appearance and a written response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and will give you a certain amount of time to file your appearance and response. The Summons should also tell you where to file your appearance and response.
Second, it is important to know what to do next. You cannot simply ignore the divorce. If you ignore the divorce, the court will still grant the divorce, likely in your spouse's favor, and you may risk having orders entered against you, including monetary judgments. In order to get involved in the case and avoid having an adverse decision entered against you, you must file an appearance and a written response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. As set forth above, the Summons provides you with instructions on where and when to file this paperwork. The written response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is very important, as it addresses your spouse's allegations, and can be used against you in the case. Therefore, it is important to seek help if you do not understand your spouse's allegations.
Finally, your divorce may involve complex legal issues, additional motion practice, or discovery. As a result, it is likely you will need to file additional paperwork throughout the case. It is important to understand the law, use it appropriately, and follow the court's rules in filing any paperwork because anything you file could be used against you later. Therefore, it is wise to seek help from an attorney once you have been served with divorce papers. If you have been served with divorce papers and would like to speak with an attorney, feel free to contact our office at 312-648-6155 for your free consultation.