The sound of your doorbell in the night startles you. No one comes to your house this time. It is not too late, but it is dark outside. Your instincts tell you not to answer. But your curiosity and concern get the best of you, so you open the door.
A man you would not be able to recognize ever again asks you a simple question. “Are you (your name here)?” When you confirm, he slaps a set of papers in your hand. You have been served with divorce papers. This move was not unexpected, since your spouse moved out four months earlier. However, the way it happened and when it happened leave you with a jolt that will last the rest of your life.
Stay calm, get organized, hire a lawyer
What do you do after divorce papers are served? You must do many things and prepare for mediation or litigation that will likely last more than a year. Here are some initial steps to take:
- Thoroughly read all documents. This will help you understand what happened, while also learning details of the filing.
- Do not contact your estranged spouse. The temptation is there. You are angry and hurt. However, he or she will not provide you with any comfort or insight, nor will he or she change his or her mind.
- Stay as calm as you can. Keep a level head and do not do anything drastic.
- Get referrals from friends and acquaintances regarding a skilled and experienced divorce attorney. You need legal assistance, so get on the phone and contact several to see how they may help, while also determining their fees.
- Hire an attorney. A do-it-yourself divorce is out of the question. You need solid legal guidance.
- Assemble all personal financial papers during the time you were married and make copies. This may include bank statements, mortgage statements, retirement – IRAs and 401(k) – account information and money market account information. You want to make sure no assets or hidden.
With a pending divorce, you need to protect yourself in every way possible. Get organized and get knowledgeable legal guidance. This will help you carry on to the next chapter of your life.