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Served with a Complaint for Divorce

Just Served, Now What?

If you have been served with a Complaint for Divorce or a Complaint to establish paternity and child support, it is important that you contact and experienced family attorney as soon as possible. Pursuant to the rules of court, you have a limited period of time to respond to such a complaint and thereby preserve your rights relative to the litigation. Under such circumstances, it is imperative that you begin your search for an attorney as soon as possible after being served with a complaint.

Receiving a complaint or even just a correspondence from an attorney informing you that he/she has been retained to represent your spouse may come as a complete surprise and cause you to experience a wide range of emotions. Whether you like it or not, your life as you knew it is going to change. You will need to seek the advice of an attorney who is experienced in family law and who will be able to explain all of your options to you. Many people make the mistake of relying too much on the advice of family or friends under these circumstances. While you may have family or friends who have experienced divorces, every divorce is different. What may serve as good advice under one set of circumstances may not be the best advice in another set of circumstances. A course of action that served a family member well in his/her divorce, may not be the best course of action for you. It is better to consult with an attorney who has had the experience of dealing with hundreds of divorces during their career.

If you are served with a complaint, it likely that the person filing the complaint against you retained an attorney quite some time ago and has been acting under that attorney’s advice for some time, which may have included engaging in "divorce planning." Therefore, your adversary has had the benefit of preparing for the moment (for a period of perhaps months or even a year) while you were left completely in the dark. In anticipation of filing a complaint, some parties will remove money from bank accounts, switch insurance coverage plans or set up separate bank accounts. It is important that you know your rights when if your spouse/significant other decides to take such drastic steps.

One of the most important areas of advice that an attorney can help you with is completing a proper responsive pleading to the Complaint. If you do not file a responsive pleading within the time prescribed by the rules of court, you will technically "default" your right to respond. If a default is entered against you, your spouse/significant other will be able to proceed without your involvement in the litigation, which may result in an unfair determination by the court relative to the issues involved in your marriage/relationship. A default hearing will be scheduled by the court and your spouse and his/her attorney will make their case to the court regarding all issues including but not limited to custody, child support, alimony as well as division of assets and debts. Your participation in the divorce process will be very limited if a default is entered against you; you will be on the outside looking in as the court determines all of these issues. If your spouse can convince the Court that her positions are appropriate during the default hearing, the court will enter a judgment containing those positions and you will be forced to comply with same.

At Donahue Hagan Klein & Weisberg, we are accustomed to working with clients whose lives have been unalterably changed after being served with a complaint. We are here to help guide you through the next difficult steps that lay ahead. To request a consultation, please contact us by telephone or email.