So, you got served with divorce papers. What does that mean? What do you do?

First, a common question I get from clients is, ‘does it matter who files first?’ Bottom line, not really. Being the petitioner or respondent in a divorce case holds little significance and does not prejudice your rights to property, with your children or otherwise. Most times, the actual allegations in an initial petition for dissolution of marriage are often standardized and based on statutory requirements. Although easier said than done, there is generally no need to “worry” about the initial allegations.

It’s the next level inquiries that are significant, after you receive divorce papers.

Here are my top ‘to-dos’ after you receive divorce papers:

1. Seek Legal Counsel. It is crucial to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the divorce process. They will help you understand your rights, obligations, and potential outcomes based on the specific circumstances of your case.

2. Respond Timely. After receiving the divorce papers, you must respond within the designated timeframe. In practice, this involves some contact to the other side either through what is called an “Appearance,” or filing a response or counter-petition.

3. Organize Information/Be Proactive. Most times, both parties are required to disclose their financial assets and liabilities. This step ensures transparency and aids in the equitable division of property/support. Be proactive and start to organize information on your assets, income, debts and in some cases, information related to your children.

Unfortunately, a divorce, in many cases, is a full-time job. Block out time during your day to review emails, provide commentary for your lawyer and otherwise do your “homework” so that you minimize the overwhelmingness of it all.

4. Seek Outside Support. Find your support team – mental health professionals, counselors, coaches family, friends, and other professionals (financial advisors, etc.) Having a team of professionals in place to help guide you through the process is of critical importance, above and beyond the legal and practical implications of a divorce.

5. Communicate Your Needs.
Everyone is different with different preferences and different needs. Make sure that you and your attorney on the same page as it relates to communication, strategy and how to best convey information so that you and your attorney can work as a partnership during this difficult time.

Divorce is a lot like the growing sport of pickleball. It’s not about who serves first, but your strategy and how you play your shots.

Stay strong, stay focused. You can do this!

Jordan D. Rosenberg, Partner
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