Divorce papers should not be a surprise, though, for some, the fact they have divorce papers in their hands comes as a shock. Whether you expected them or not, there is no need to panic. Collect yourself and call our office so we can talk about your situation.
If you are in Pennsylvania, you should have the:
- Cover sheet: This tells you what the paperwork concerns, who filed it, and the name and contact information of your spouse’s attorney if they have one.
- Notice to defend: It provides information on how to defend yourself and retain the services of an attorney.
- Complaint: This has multiple pages and requests a divorce. It should cover factual details of your marriage, you, your spouse, and your children. It should also have requests covering child custody and support, property division, and alimony.
- Verification page: Your spouse signs this document to state that what is in the complaint is true.
You may have received the divorce papers in the mail or been given them by a sheriff.
What Should I Do?
You can be angry or emotional but do not rip these papers up or throw them away. Do not get angry with the sheriff. They know nothing about you or your spouse, and they are just doing their job. You also should not panic because there is no need for an immediate response, though you should not ignore what is happening either.
- Get information and advice
Though you have your spouse’s lawyer’s name and phone number, it is not a good idea to call them. Their job is to help their client, not you. Call our office. We will answer your questions about the process, describe your obligations, and tell you about mistakes you should avoid. We can schedule a free consultation if you want to discuss retaining our services.
We should review the papers to see if you need to respond and, if so, how and when. You should do so if you want to raise new claims (equitable distribution, spousal support, or alimony), which are a part of most divorce cases.
- Take action and get organized
After talking to us, you may freeze joint bank accounts and secure joint assets. If your spouse kept their desire to divorce a secret, they might have withdrawn money and assets from joint accounts just before you were served. If they cannot be convinced to return your fair share, a judge may order them to return the money or provide spousal support while the divorce proceeds (alimony pendente lite).
If you are both parents of children 18 or younger (or older under some circumstances), the children must be supported. If the other spouse has financially cut off you and your kids, we should discuss seeking child support.
If your spouse can access your current email account, you should get a new email address with a new user ID and password to ensure your communications are kept private. You should also get a post office box or a private mailbox at a local provider because you may receive paper documents during your divorce, not just emails.
If you have not done so already, it is time to collect and organize documents covering your financial situation. Part of the divorce will be equitably dividing marital assets and debts. This includes documents covering taxes, income, accounts (bank, investment, and retirement), insurance, property (real and personal such as vehicles and artwork), information on a business you and or your spouse own, credit cards, debts, and mortgages.
If you have a child with special needs, organize documents covering their diagnosis, medical bills, and educational needs. Tuition bills are also crucial if your children attend private schools or college.
3. Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust
If you are served divorce papers, call our office at (215) 608-1867, so we can schedule a consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help. We can speak over the phone, hold a teleconference, or meet in our Doylestown or Langhorne offices.