The first thing you should do when you are served with a divorce complaint is to read the documents carefully. There are at least two things you that will have an immediate effect on you and possibly two additional matters.
- The summons served upon you is official notice that you have been sued for divorce. It also tells you that you have to file a response to the complaint for divorce which is called an answer. The complaint and answer establish the issues that are disputed in the divorce. You have twenty days to file your answer.
- Automatic Financial Restraining Order-Once you are served with a divorce summons you are subject to an automatic financial restraining order. Read it carefully. A brief summary is that you can't take any action to hide money or assets from your spouse and you can't take any financial action to hurt your spouse. You can spend money in the ordinary course of living, ordinary course of business, and to pay your attorney. Any other expenditure may require the permission of your spouse or a Judge. You are also prohibited from canceling insurance policies or changing coverage.
- Check for emergency orders-Your spouse may have gone to court and appeared before the court without giving you notice. A Judge may have issued orders that are binding on you. An example is that you may ordered to vacate your home. You must obey these orders. If you don't like the orders, you can schedule a motion hearing and ask the Judge to change them.
- Check for motions to be heard-Your spouse may have scheduled motions and given you notice of the hearing. If you don't appear at the hearing, the Judge is likely to give your spouse what they are requesting. If you wish to oppose the motion, you must appear.
You should consult an experienced divorce lawyer to learn about your rights and determine how to proceed in the divorce. When you call the lawyer's office for an appointment, it is important that you know if there are any motions scheduled or if the Court issued orders before you were served.