When divorce papers are served, there are a lot of unknowns. Whether you are the one serving divorce papers or you are on the receiving end, you will likely have many questions about what is to come.
You will want to know what you can do to make the process go as smoothly as possible for everyone involved, while ensuring that you get a fair and just outcome.
To help guide you through the process, here is what you can expect to happen after divorce papers are served in Florida. Keep in mind that processes may vary by state, and we recommend getting information about your specific state from a qualified divorce attorney.
What Happens After You Serve Divorce Papers?
If you’re serving divorce papers on your spouse, the process won’t come as a surprise. You will expect it. Regardless, you might be anxious about what happens next.
When your spouse is served with divorce papers:
- They can choose to hire a divorce attorney or represent themselves.
- They will have up to 20 days to file an answer. Members of the military may have a longer period of time to respond.
- Their answer will tell the court which part of the filling they agree or disagree with.
- They will be asked to fill out additional paperwork and participate in mediation and/or hearings to finalize the divorce.
If your spouse is served with divorce papers and they don’t file an answer within 20 days, they may forfeit their right to present their side. The court may award a default judgment, which is a ruling that only takes your petition into consideration (since there is no information submitted by the other party). This process doesn’t happen automatically. The petitioner (you) must file a Motion for Clerk’s Default to move the case along if your spouse doesn’t file an answer. To keep the process moving along, file a Motion for Clerk’s Default the day after the answer is due if your spouse does not file an answer.
If your spouse is served with divorce papers and they respond after 20 days, they may still be able to participate in the case. They can file a late answer if the Motion for Clerk’s Default has not been filed. If the Motion for Clerk’s Default has already been filed, they will need to file other motions to show why they filed late and what relief they seek.
Recommended Reading: How to File for Divorce in Florida
What Happens After You Are Served with Divorce Papers?
The divorce process might be more disorienting if you are served with papers from your spouse. Whether you are expecting them or not, being served with divorce papers can be stressful. You may feel emotional about the situation, and you only have 20 days to file an answer. The key is to stay calm and act quickly.
If you are served with divorce papers:
- Decide whether to seek counsel from an attorney. We recommend exploring your options with a divorce attorney as soon as possible. As soon as you are served, call for free consultations to see how a divorce lawyer can help you navigate the next steps. (At TJ Grimaldi, Attorney at Law, all consultations are free. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.)
- Review the petition, and compile your answer. Your answer should respond to all claims made in the divorce papers. Don’t rush through this process. Carefully go through all claims and write up responses that relate to the division of assets and liability, child custody, and spousal support. Make note of any claims that you don’t agree with, and pull any documentation that supports your claims.
- File your answer within 20 days. It should go without saying, but the deadline to file is extremely important. Don’t let this date pass without filing an answer.
- Follow additional directions by the court leading up to final judgment. Once the answer is filed, you will likely receive additional documents to fill out, and you will participate in mediation and/or hearings until the final judgment is entered.
If you are served with divorce papers and don’t answer within 20 days, you may still have an opportunity to make your claims. If the Motion for Clerk’s Default hasn’t been filed, you can still file an answer. But, if the Motion for Clerk’s Default was filed, you may need to file additional motions to get your side of the case heard.
Talk to an Attorney Before & After Divorce Papers Are Served
When divorce papers are served, the situation quickly becomes real. Whether you are serving the papers or being served with them, you are in a legal situation that can impact the rest of your life.
Make sure you have the information and representation to protect you, your children, and your assets as you go through the process. Work with an experienced attorney who can ensure that the process is as painless as possible for all involved while ending with a fair outcome.
If you’ve been served with divorce papers or are thinking about serving your spouse with divorce papers, TJ Grimaldi is here to help. Our consultations are 100% free. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 to see how we can help make the divorce process less stressful for everyone involved.