Steps To Take If You’re Served with Divorce Papers

Served with Divorce Papers
Some Divorce Papers ask for a signature

What To Do: You’ve Been Served Divorce Papers

Getting served divorce papers can be devastating. Even if you want a divorce or you’re expecting a divorce, it’s still stressful and particularly final. 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… 

STEP #1: Take a breath.  Your anxiety is normal.

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. But, it’s okay; because, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel about your divorce. 

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 the Papers

The second step after getting served divorce papers is to review the paperwork. Your response is time-sensitive.  It’s important that you read these documents as soon as you can. 

In Minnesota, when a spouse wants a divorce, he or she has to serve and file for divorce. The filing process requires the spouse to provide certain documents to the court.  Service provides documents to the other party as required by law.

Importantly, the documents you’re seeing are typical and normal for divorce cases in Minnesota. These documents inform you that your spouse wants a divorce.  They also state what your spouse is claiming and asking for in the divorce. Sometimes, these documents are collectively referred to as, the Pleadings.

What are Divorce 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. 

When you’re served divorce papers, you should receive at least two documents. These two legal documents are called, the Summonsand the Petition.

The Summons states the rights of each spouse during the divorce process. For example, during the divorce process, neither spouse can harass the other spouse.  Any current insurance coverage needs to be maintained.

In addition, the Summons encourages the parties to try alternative dispute resolution methods. The Summons also informs you that you have 30 days to respond to your spouse’s Petition. 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 used to request a divorce from the court. In addition, the Petition will state the reason for the divorce, list facts about your marriage, 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 asking for from the divorce.

However, you don’t have to agree with anything requested in the Petition. The Court doesn’t have to necessarily grant any of your spouse’s requests. 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 or 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. If you don’t respond, it could lead the court to assume the divorce is uncontested. In that case, the Court could grant everything your spouse requested. Therefore, regardless of whether you hire a divorce attorney or not, you should 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 if I’m Served?

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 not to hire an attorney, you’ll want to start your research early.   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. 

If you have other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.