List of What To Do When Served With Divorce Papers According to Experienced Dayton Divorce Lawyer Robert L Mues
You go answer the door and there’s a big guy on the other side. You slowly open it. He puts his foot in the door and asks your name. Before you open your mouth he hands you an envelope containing a fat stack of papers. He announces “You’ve been served!” which is often followed by “Have a nice day!” BAM! Whether expected or not, this is the “kick off” of your divorce case.
Your reaction will no doubt vary depending on your feelings about your marital situation and your level of happiness. Some individuals will be blindsided, hurt and even physically sick. Others may actually be relieved and welcome a fresh new start. No matter where you fall in this spectrum, here are some tips of what to do and not do.
THINGS TO DO…
- Read the documents
- As difficult as this may be, try to read through them. On the SUMMONS (which should be the first page), note the deadline to file your Answer. In Ohio, it is 28 days from the date you were served. Count those days on a calendar and write the last day on the top of the divorce papers and be sure to make sure you mark it on your personal planner. Make note if RESTRAINING ORDERS are also stapled to the packet, which are typically found about half way through the paperwork. Read them! They tell you WHAT YOU CANNOT DO absent a Court Order. The purpose is to maintain peace in the home and to “freeze” assets and preserve the status quo. Read more about Ohio Restraining Orders from our Ohio Family Law Blog from 2011.
- Note the deadline in the Summons
- As I said above, mark the deadline and do not procrastinate and miss it! Missing it would make you be in default and could allow your spouse to basically get whatever they want at a Non-Contested Hearing. Act quickly so your property interests and rights can be fully protected.
- Start your search for your divorce lawyer ASAP!
- Read one of our blog articles from earlier this year about how to analyze and investigate your options to find an experienced divorce lawyer. If you are thinking about going it alone, the Indiana Supreme Court recorded an excellent 14 segment instructional video. Even according to the neutral Supreme Court, trying to handle a divorce without an attorney is typically extremely difficult. Trying to “fix” mistakes that were made by individuals trying to handle it themselves can be very costly and sometimes impossible!
- Keep your kids out of it.
- Kids never should be involved in the back-and-forth in a divorce. Do NOT try to win your kids to your side or alienate them from your spouse. When the time is right, you and your spouse can ideally talk with the kids together about the situation. Here is an excellent blog article about how to tell your kids.
- Keep your cool and your mouth shut!
- The start of the divorce proceeding can be very emotional. Control your emotions and avoid any discussion which could be overheard by the kids or become heated. The last thing you need is for the police to come out and arrest one of you for domestic violence! Finding and scheduling an appointment with a psychologist or therapist might also be wise depending on your emotional state.
- Start collecting financial information.
- In the divorce packet, you will see a copy of the Financial Disclosure Affidavit that was completed under oath by your spouse. There will also be a blank one for you to fill out. Start that process as soon as possible so when you meet with your lawyer you can provide him or her with the best snapshot of your present financial situation. Click here to read a blog article about how to properly complete the Financial Disclosure Affidavit.
THINGS NOT TO DO…
- Do not violate any Restraining Orders.
- As mentioned above, do not start reacting to the litigation without FIRST consulting a lawyer. You do not want the Judge to believe you reacted in a bad way or with retribution aimed at your spouse. Most divorce lawyers can schedule you in for an appointment in a few days. As tough as it may be, just hold off on EVERYTHING temporarily.
- Do not cancel your spouse’s health insurance.
- Ohio law prohibits you from doing this EVEN if you don’t see it in the paperwork from the Court. It is unwise to modify or alter ANY policies of insurance during the litigation without first obtaining Court approval.
- Do not hit, argue or threaten your spouse.
- Pretty obvious, right? I can tell you story after story where a party violated this admonishment and created many more legal problems for him or herself.
- Don’t post about it online.
- Get off Facebook and Twitter and all social media. In this day and age, your photos and posts can make proving poor temperament or worse, very easy with screen shots of your posts. Just stay offline!
- Do not break, hide or sell your furniture and/or belongings.
- Whether there are restraining orders or not, doing this or number 6 below will likely come back and bite you. Evidence will likely be presented showing these acts which will paint you in a bad light with the Judge. Not smart!
- Don’t take money out of bank accounts and try to hide it.
- Maintain the status quo (at least until your attorney can explore the facts and advise you properly).
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to act promptly to get in to see an experienced divorce lawyer. The practice of divorce law is highly specialized these days. A real estate or business lawyer won’t know the sometimes subtle nuances and prior tendencies of the judge assigned to your case. Be smart. Be sure your interests are fully protected.
Protect Your Interests With An Experienced Divorce Lawyer in Montgomery County Ohio
At Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues we are committed to providing our clients with excellent individualized representation and sound legal advice. Feel free to learn more about our firm at our website at www.hcmmlaw.com. We are extremely passionate about divorce and family law. We have been publishing the highly acclaimed Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007. If you live in the Dayton or Southwestern Ohio area and are considering a divorce , please contact us at (937) 293-2141 or email us. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss your situation!
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.