If your spouse has initiated the divorce filing, it’s likely they have secured legal counsel and are already taking steps to protect their interests. If you’ve been served with divorce papers, be proactive and review them right away. It’s important to get clarity so that you know exactly what to expect from this process and be able to identify what options are best for you and your family.
What to Do if You’ve Been Served
In your divorce papers, you will have received a summons – this tells you how long you have to file an answer to your spouse’s divorce complaint. The complaint for divorce provides the court with your information and the details of the marriage (and information about kids, if applicable) as well as the terms for divorce from your spouse, including a division of property and debts, a spousal support/alimony request, and a child custody and support arrangement. When served with papers, you may also receive an Ex Parte Order (one or more motions asking the court to order something at the start of the case before you’re notified of the divorce). This is considered an emergency order that is decided by a judge without hearing your position and becomes effective as soon as you’re served the divorce papers.
If you receive an Ex Parte Order, you have a short amount of time to file an objection if you are in disagreement with the order. In this case, it is highly recommended that you seek professional legal help from an experienced family law attorney to ensure you are fairly represented.
Know Your Rights & Options
Divorce is the legal process of dissolving your marriage, and in California, a no-fault state, your spouse (or domestic partner) does not have to prove that the other spouse behaved badly to be granted the divorce. The courts simply require the filing spouse to state irreconcilable difference (i.e. that the couple cannot get along). The law does not necessarily require both parties to agree to the divorce and if a spouse or domestic partner chooses not to participate in the divorce case, the other spouse or partner will still be able to receive a default judgment, and the divorce will ultimately go through.
What to Expect
In your divorce judgement, there are other important matters that will be decided including: child custody (if you have children) which includes where the kids will live, the days and time spent with each parent, child support payments, and the amount of support that each child will receive; spousal support (also known as alimony); as well as division of assets including debts, investments, and marital property.
Prepare for the Road Ahead
There are times in life when it’s best to reach out to skilled, trustworthy people to achieve a goal that’s beyond your reach. Having the right counsel on your side – a hardworking legal team that understands the law as it pertains to divorce, and can quickly act on your behalf – can mean the world to your case, your children, and your future.
A knowledgeable family lawyer will not only help you understand the divorce petition and ensure you meet all necessary deadlines indicated on your summons but can make a substantive difference in the outcome of your final divorce judgment.