Being served divorce papers can be frightening, especially if they are unexpected. You can easily feel unable to gather your thoughts and think through what to do next as you suffer under a wave of emotions and start worrying about things like divorce lawyers and family law issues. Yet a proper reaction to divorce papers is essential if you want to set yourself on the path to a successful resolution. If you’ve been served divorce papers, here are some tips for dealing with the situation well.
Give Yourself Space
This is an emotional time and trying to pretend it isn’t can make the situation worse. In an attempt to feel less pain you may lash out in anger. You may end up doing something you regret. Take a little time to work through your feelings without specifically reacting to the divorce papers themselves. Accept that your first few immediate, instinctual reactions to the papers are probably going to be entirely driven by emotion. Let yourself get past that stage before you start acting. Get the help of family and friends during this time.
Focus on Essentials
The most important first question is “how much time do you have?” The divorce papers should specify exactly how much time you have to respond. One understandable reaction to such papers is to want to ignore their very existence, but this will be a catastrophic mistake. It’s crucial to make sure you mark this date so you don’t end up inadvertently ignoring the issue.
You need to find the right legal representation as soon as possible. This may start with inquiring about legal aid for divorce in your area, and you can choose between getting a family law provider to walk you through the whole process from beginning to end or go the do-it-yourself route. In the latter situation, you do much of the work by yourself and get a lawyer only for specific tasks. While this makes for a low cost divorce, it’s also the route most likely to end in loss for you.
Make Sure of Finances
When you’ve been served divorce papers, it’s also important to get your finances in order as soon as possible. It’s crucial to review your assets and records. It’s also time to consider ending any joint accounts you may have with your spouse and putting your own finances into a personal account from here on out.
This is also a good time to think about saving as much as possible. Divorce is expensive however you get representation, and having some extra money in the next year is always going to be a good idea. Cut back on expenses wherever you can and pick up some extra work if possible.
Whatever you do, though, don’t be tempted to try to get back at your spouse or deliberately leave him or her out in the cold, financially. If you react emotionally and try to destroy your spouse, you’ll almost certainly be the one who suffers most from this in the end. Everything you do financially is going to be reviewed by courts and lawyers from here on out until the process is over, so act wisely.
Consider Your Kids
If you have children, they should be one of the first things on your mind when you’re served divorce papers. Think about the whole issue from their perspective, if possible. Don’t involve them in what’s going on and resist the temptation to talk trash about your spouse in front of them. Even if your spouse is entirely to blame for the divorce, except in the most extreme circumstances it’s almost always necessary (and best) for the kids to maintain some kind of decent relationship with both parents for life. Don’t make that impossible for them.
Not only do you need to protect your kids, but you also need to protect yourself. The courts and lawyers for your spouse are really going to frown on immature behavior on your part involving the kids. Resist getting them embroiled in the fight and do what’s best for them at every stage. This will help them and you.
Being served divorce papers is hard, but if you focus, breathe, and get the right help you’ll be able to get through it.