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What to Do When You Are Served With Divorce Papers


You could have been talking with your spouse about getting a divorce or you could be totally in the dark when you receive your divorce papers from a law enforcement officer. Whatever your level of awareness is, getting served your divorce papers can be a quite unnerving experience. You will basically be notified that a lawsuit has been filed in court against you. You will also be informed that you need to respond within a set period of time. Most of the people served with divorce papers feel a certain apprehension when they receive such a notification because it’s a lawsuit – and most people feel that they haven’t done anything wrong to warrant such a thing. The paperwork you will receive will, of course, be in English, but you would be surprised to see that it’s not quite readable. At least not like how you can read a newspaper or a magazine. There will also be instructions that will come with the paperwork but it won’t be easy to understand it – definitely not straightforward. When you find yourself in this situation, you might not know exactly what to do next.


How to Handle the Situation


There are many ways you can handle the situation when you are served your divorce papers. We would like to advise you on what you should do when you reach this perplexing point in life. How should you respond and how you should deal with the paperwork is something that’s going to be challenging since it’s probably going to be your first time. When you first receive your divorce papers, you must never set it aside with the intention to deal with them later. Of course, it’s not an emergency situation, but you still need to take certain actions once you receive your divorce papers.

You would receive the divorce papers after your spouse has filed an Original Petition for Divorce. This document includes your name and the names of your children if they are under 18 years old. The document also includes the grounds for your divorce along with other specific items requested by the court. There will also be a citation with the original petition. This is from the clerk’s office of the court where your spouse filed the Original Petition for Divorce. This form will tell you that you have been served your divorce papers and it will tell you the certain time you have to make a response by. In Texas, you will be given twenty days after the first Monday of being served your divorce papers. That’s roughly there weeks, so you will have enough time to look for a divorce attorney or decide to handle the divorce by yourself.

You should not ask for legal advice from the person who delivers the divorce paperwork for you. Usually, the one who will hand you the papers is a professional process server, and his job is to collect and deliver legal documents. He is not an attorney, so seeking legal advice from him is out of the question. This person will also record the exact date and time you received your paperwork. In court, this will be used to determine your deadline for your Answer.


When Should You Hire An Attorney?


Many people consider hiring an attorney once they’re served with divorce papers. It is possible to represent yourself in court. If you try hard, you can manage it. However, it’s no secret that the divorce process and the paperwork you have to file is tedious. It will consume a lot of time and you have to think about deadlines most of the time too. If you have no experience in representing yourself in court during a divorce lawsuit, you will have to learn everything while you represent yourself. You will also have your family to take care of during the entire divorce ordeal. If you don’t exactly know what you’re doing, you could end up hurting yourself and making mistakes. If you decide to face your divorce with the help of an attorney, make sure to avail of the free consultation offers first, to determine which attorney could potentially work harmoniously with you throughout your divorce case.

Even before you hire an attorney, it would be helpful if you can already collect and organize relevant paperwork for your divorce case. Things like house and bank documents along with tax documents will be important during your divorce, so collect them and organize them as meticulously as you can.


How to Respond to the Original Petition


If you are not the one who filed the Original Petition, you will be the Respondent. Being the respondent, you will have to file an Original Answer, which is a short document that lets the court know that you are an active party in the case. If your spouse, who is the Petitioner, in this case, has hired an attorney, you can file your Original Answer in court and then email, mail or fax a copy to your spouse’s attorney so that you can begin discussing and managing issues that may need temporary orders. You need to manage child visitation schedules, child support, bills and other important stuff while your divorce case is ongoing. If you can reach an agreement with your spouse, you won’t have to request temporary orders from the court, so make sure to communicate and try to reach a fair agreement.

Divorce is never easy, but with the help of an experienced attorney and armed with enough information, your divorce can be peaceful and less-challenging.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at timothy.hutton@austintexaslegal.com

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