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What should I do after being served with divorce papers?

I just got served with divorce papers by my wife and it came as a surprise. I knew she was saying she would do it but I thought she wouldn't. So what I should do now and how fast do I have to move?

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I am truly sorry about your situation, however, you need to do your best to deal with this . . . now.  What you have in your hand is a packet that will usually include: (1) the complaint for divorce (filed by your spouse) and a summons; (2) a blank financial statement; (3) a tracking assignment (this document tells you who your judge will be): and (4) information about the automatic restraining order on assets (which prohibits you and your spouse from selling or transferring certain marital assets during the pendency of the divorce proceedings).  The packet may also contain a Motion for Temporary Orders, along with information about when and where the Motion will be heard.  You and your spouse may agree to certain orders or, if no agreement is possible, the judge will decide.  (Temporary order can deal with a range of subjects, including child custody, spousal support, who must maintain health insurance, who will live in the marital home and/or pay the mortgage, and visitation schedules.)

At this point, I think it is a good idea to stress the importance of contacting a Massachusetts divorce lawyer.  Not only are you now required to file your answer and any counterclaims, as discussed below, but you need to deal with the temporary orders and the issues they raise.  Once an order is in place, it will typically stay in place for the duration of the divorce proceedings.  Because these orders may deal with a range of issues, including legal and physical custody of the minor children, child support and spousal support, use of the marital home during the divorce and who pays the expenses, and who is responsible for certain medical and other costs related to the children, it is CRUCIAL that your interests be adequately represented at the hearing(s).

As mentioned above, you have twenty days to file a written answer to your wife's complaint for divorce (and to serve a copy on her or her attorney if she is represented).   At the same time, you may file a counterclaim, a pleading that will be contained within the answer and will spell out the relief you are seeking from the court.  You may also file a Motion for Temporary Orders.

Once all the pleadings are filed and served, if you and your wife cannot reach a settlement, the litigation will begin, and discovery (including interrogatories, depositions, and requests for financial records and other documents) and pretrial motions (regarding such things as court dates and discover disputes) will likely follow.  If you have children, the whole process may be even more involved, as you and your spouse works through issues related to custody and support.

Follow these additional links for important information about child custody after divorce, alimony and the alimony reform act of 2011, and for general information about  Massachusetts Divorce Law.  Good luck.


Submitted Fri, 05/31/2013 - 12:38

Being served with divorce papers is a serious matter which cannot be ignored. Here is some information for you:
The paperwork might include a complaint for divorce, automatic restraining orders, tracking sheet, summons, motion for temporary orders and notice of date for temporary orders to be heard.
2. This is what a lawyer or you, if you choose to represent yourself) needs to do upon receipt of this packet
a) answer the complaint within 20 days.
b) file a counterclaim asserting your rights and requests for relief.
c) complete a financial statement in preparation of temporary hearings.
d) prepare a child support guideline.
e) create an expense sheet, gather all your financials for at least 3 years
f) do not transfer any assets, do not change any beneficiaries, do not change any health insurance, do not close any accounts or credit cards or you may violate the restraining order
g) Check your credit cards and your bank account to see if your spouse has unilaterally charged or withdrawn, or closed any accounts to pay the attorney.
h) if you are still both living in the home, be prepared for extreme stress until the living and financial arrangements are in place.
i) contact professionals: your attorney, your financial advisor, your CPA or CDFA to get a handle on your financial options.... if you broke your arm would you set it yourself?
j) if you have children, consider a therapist for them (and one for yourself)
k) do not delay or you will put yourself in a vulnerable and uneducated situation ...
There is a lot going on here and the person involved does not under the stress have the objectivity or education to do it on their own (in my humble professional and personal opinion)
Good luck

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