Getting served divorce papers can be devastating. Even if you want a divorce or you’re expecting a divorce, getting served with divorce papers can still be stressful. However, if you’re overwhelmed by racing thoughts and emotions after getting served divorce papers, focusing on these next three steps can help.
Continue reading for help with moving forward, understanding the paperwork you’ve been served, and exploring your options…
What To Do When You’ve Been Served Divorce Papers in Minnesota
STEP #1: Validate your emotions
The first step after getting served divorce papers is to validate your feelings. You may be angry, anxious, depressed, relieved, scared, cautious, etc… In fact, you’re probably experiencing several emotions all at once. On top of that, your emotions may even conflict with one another. But, it’s okay; because, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel about your divorce. Instead, however you feel about your divorce, is how you feel about your divorce.
The whole point of this first step is to stop yourself from judging and fighting your emotions. Instead, allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, without adding additional judgment regarding how you think you should or shouldn’t feel. Obviously, this is much easier said than done. However, the less time you spend fighting your emotions and berating yourself, the more time you have to spend taking care of yourself.
STEP #2: REVIEW DIVORCE PAPERS
The second step after getting served divorce papers is to review the paperwork. Because of time restrictions, it’s very important that you read these documents when you receive them. With that being said, it can be helpful to have some background information before doing so. Often times, divorce papers are less disturbing when you know that what you’re seeing is most likely the standard documentation for every divorce.
In Minnesota, when a spouse wants a divorce, s/he has to file for divorce. The filing process requires the spouse to provide certain documents to the court and to the other party. Therefore, much of the documents you’re seeing are typical for all divorce cases in Minnesota. These initial documents inform you that your spouse wants a divorce, and what your spouse is claiming and asking for in the divorce. Sometimes, these documents are collectively referred to as, the Pleadings.
In divorce pleadings, you’ll see the words, Petitioner and Respondent. The spouse who initiated the divorce is called, the Petitioner. The other spouse is known as, the Respondent. The petitioner and the respondent are the “parties” in a divorce case.
What are Divorce Pleadings?
When you’re served divorce papers, you should receive at least two documents. These two legal documents are called, the Summons, and the Petition.
The Summons is a legal document that states the rights of each spouse during the divorce process. For example, during the divorce process, neither spouse can harass the other spouse, and any current insurance coverage needs to be maintained. In addition, the summons encourages the parties to try alternative dispute resolution methods, in the absence of domestic abuse. The summons also informs you that you have 30 days to respond to your spouse’s petition. Additionally, in a divorce with children, the summons should include a notice about parent education programs in Minnesota.
To determine if you’ll have to attend a parent education program during your divorce, read: Parent Education Program: Unknown Court-Orders to Parents.
The Petition is a legal document that is used to request a divorce from the court. In addition, the petition will state the reason for the divorce, list facts about your marriage (such as when and where you were married), and include your spouse’s requests regarding child custody, child support, division of property, spousal maintenance (alimony), etc… The petition gives you an early idea of what your spouse is going to be asking for over the course of your divorce proceeding.
It’s often helpful to remember that the petition is simply what your spouse is stating and asking for in your divorce. You don’t have to agree with everything requested in the petition. The court doesn’t have to necessarily grant any of your spouse’s requests. In fact, you also get the opportunity to provide facts about the marriage and make requests regarding the divorce. In Minnesota, this is done by formally and properly responding to your spouse’s petition by drafting and filing a document called, the Answer. To simplify, the Answer is a legal document that allows you to formally respond to the other party’s petition and his/her requests.
Get a general outline of the divorce process in Minnesota by reading: Divorce in Minnesota.
STEP #3: DECIDE YOUR RESPONSE
The third step after getting served divorce papers, is to decide what to do. As mentioned, you have 30 days to respond to your spouse’s petition. A lack of response on your part could lead the court to assume the divorce is uncontested and therefore, grant everything your spouse requested. Therefore, regardless of whether you hire a divorce attorney or not, you’ll want to formally and properly respond to your spouse and the court.
Lastly, unless prohibited by a court order, you can communicate directly with your spouse even after being served divorce papers. If open communication with the other spouse is possible, it can be a great way to keep divorce costs down.
Should I get a divorce lawyer?
Should you get a divorce lawyer to help you with your response? To help you decide if you need a lawyer for your divorce, read: How to Determine if You Should Hire a Divorce Attorney.
You can hire a lawyer to draft paperwork, help you mediate, and/or represent you throughout the entire process. It can be especially important to hire an attorney if your spouse has hired an attorney so you’re not at a disadvantage. Read: 8 Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney to learn more about what an attorney can do for you.
If you decide to hire an attorney, it’s important that you look for a lawyer in Minnesota who specializes in family law. Check out our series on Got a Good Lawyer for more tips on how to find the right divorce attorney for you, and also our series on What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.
If you decide not to hire an attorney, you’ll want to start your research, because the judge will expect you to know and follow all of the state laws, court rules, legal procedures, deadlines and court etiquette, just as if you were an attorney yourself.
For more tips on how to keep costs down in your divorce, read: How much does it cost to Divorce in Minnesota.