I was just served with papers! What should I do?

Often, spouses are surprised when they are served with papers. While they knew that their marriage was “rocky” and they may have even discussed the topic of divorce with their spouse, many remain shocked that their spouse would have taken the next step without their consultation.

Most spouses are served by either (1) a sheriff’s police officer (uniformed or in civilian clothing) or (2) by a private process server. Most jurisdictions allow for service of divorce papers in all sorts of ways. Most spouses should know that it does very little for their case (it may even hurt their case) to avoid being served with papers. Your best approach is to accept the papers with a smile on your face, and say “thank you.”

Once you have the papers, do nothing. One of the first (and biggest) mistakes that you can make in your divorce is by rushing to a lawyer’s office and hiring the first one that seems interested in your case. Almost always, you will have at least 30 days to interview lawyers and make an informed decision. Additionally, try not to read the contents of the paperwork (called the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage). Just keep the documents together and give them to a lawyer of your choosing.

If you’re going to represent yourself, you will have to read the contents at some point. The only reason that you shouldn’t read the documents is because the allegations contained within the initial documents are sometimes considered hurtful.


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