I’ve Just Been Served with Divorce Papers. Now What?

Wedding ring sitting on top of a broken heart

Last Updated on March 9, 2023 by Carlos Lopez

Even if you knew this day was coming, being served with divorce papers can be a big shock. Your marriage, and the life you envisioned for yourself, is headed toward the end. It’s an emotional thing to process, regardless of your overall feelings about the end of your marriage.

Now that you’ve got the papers in your hands, you may be wondering what to do next.

Take Some Time

Divorce is a stressful, emotional time. Even if you and your spouse mutually decided on the divorce, or you want out of your marriage desperately, you are likely to face some emotional ups and downs. That’s completely normal.

Once you have the divorce papers in hand, take some time to process everything. Grieve, worry, or plan if you need to. Give yourself a solid week before making any big decisions or taking any major steps. You have some time before you need to respond.

Respond to the Papers

In Washington, D.C., you have 20 days to file your Answer with the court. Your Answer tells the court whether you agree or disagree with what your spouse said in the Complaint. This Answer includes responding to items such as child support, alimony, child custody, and division of assets that may have been included in your spouse’s Complaint.

Once you have filed your Answer, make sure you send a copy to your spouse or your spouse’s attorney.

Hire an Attorney

If you’re going to hire an attorney, this is the time to start looking for one. Consult with as many attorneys as you feel necessary. Ultimately, you will want to find someone you feel you can trust to advocate for your best interests during this emotional time.

You can still hire an attorney later in the divorce process if you want to, but it’s often easier to get someone involved at the beginning to make sure you’re following the laws properly.

You should also read:How Will Property Be Divided in My Divorce?

Start Sketching Out Your Ideas

When it comes to divorce, there are a large number of decisions that must be made before the process is finalized. Items such as child support, child custody, alimony, who gets the house, and who keeps what assets, are all part of the process.

Begin listing out the things you know you’ll need to include in your divorce decree, including an accounting of all significant financial accounts and property that you know of. Estimate values of these items, as well. Start thinking about what you feel you can live with giving up (Is the car really worth bickering over, or should you save your battles for custody discussions?) and what you can’t. Divorce requires some measure of compromise, so start thinking about where you can bargain early.

Take Care of Yourself

There’s a lot that needs to be done in a short amount of time. This is especially compounded if you’re the one that has to find a new place to live, a new job, or new schools for the children. Divorce is one of the most stressful things people can experience, and that can easily take its toll on your emotional, mental, and physical health.

To help you weather this season of life, take some time for yourself. Go for a walk, read a good book, have dinner with friends, get a massage – Whatever relaxes and rejuvenates you. Taking this time for yourself will help you proceed through your divorce with a clearer, calmer mindset, helping you make those all-important decisions with less stress and anger.

Skilled Divorce Attorney in Washington, D.C.

At Lopez Law Firm, we believe that each and every one of our clients deserves the best possible advocate during this emotionally charged time of life. That’s why attorney Carlos Lopez takes his time to really get to know you, your situation, and your desired outcome.

For experienced representation that puts your needs first, Call today for a consultation!