Whether you were expecting it or not, being served with divorce papers can be a sobering experience. Once you have been served, the divorce process has formally begun, and there are now deadlines you need to meet and requirements you need to follow in order to avoid negative consequences for the outcome of your divorce.
So, you’ve been served. What now? Here is a brief introduction to what you need to know.
What to Do (and What Not to Do) After Being Served with Divorce Papers in Ohio
1. Read All of the Documents Carefully.
You need to read all of the documents you received very carefully. We know this can be difficult, but it is extremely important. Included with your spouse’s Complaint should be a number of standardized forms, and the information contained in these forms is really what matters most at this stage of the process.
2. Pay Particular Attention to the Deadlines and Automatic Restraining Orders.
In particular, you need to be aware of (i) your deadline for submitting a response (called an “Answer”), and (ii) the automatic restraining orders that go into effect upon service. In Ohio, you have 28 days from the date of service to file your Answer, and the automatic restraining orders prevent you from:
- Interfering with your spouse’s access to your children;
- Disparaging your spouse in front of your children;
- Removing property from your home, disposing of assets, or modifying insurance coverage;
- Making withdrawals from joint accounts (with an exception for regular payments from a retirement plan or pension); and,
- Incurring joint debts.
3. Keep Your Thoughts to Yourself.
Regardless of how you feel about your spouse’s request for a divorce, right now, you need to do your best to keep your thoughts to yourself. Making offhanded comments to your children, texting with friends (or your spouse’s friends), and posting on social media are all mistakes that should be avoided. Professional help is available if you need someone to talk to, and conversations with your healthcare providers can be kept confidential.
4. Do Not Act Out of Emotion or Attempt to Retaliate.
This point cannot be emphasized enough. Acting out of emotion or in an attempt to retaliate against your spouse will very likely involve a violation of one or more of the automatic restraining orders listed above, and this can have serious ramifications for your divorce. Trying to keep your spouse from seeing your children, hiding assets, and disparaging your spouse are a few examples of the mistakes you need to avoid.
5. Start Collecting the Information You Need to Respond and Make Informed Decisions.
As part of your initial response, you will need to prepare a Financial Disclosure Affidavit (a blank form should have been included in the documents you received). To complete the Financial Disclosure Affidavit properly, you will need various pieces of information about your assets and income. Collecting the necessary records can take some time, so it is important to begin this process promptly. For more information about preparing for your divorce, we encourage you to read:
6. Schedule a Free Consultation with a Local Divorce Attorney.
Finally, whether you think you and your spouse will be able to resolve your differences amicably or you think your divorce may end up in court, one of the first steps after being served with divorce papers should be to schedule a free consultation with a family law attorney.
There are lots of issues you will need to consider, and an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the process of protecting your rights during your divorce.
An experienced attorney will also be able to explain the options that are available for seeking an amicable resolution, and help you make informed decisions at every step along the way.
Schedule a Free Initial Divorce Consultation at Laubacher & Co.
Have you been served with divorce papers in the Cleveland, OH area? If so, we invite you to contact us for a free initial divorce consultation. Evening and weekend appointments are available, and we can schedule your appointment at a time that is convenient for you. To speak with one of our experienced divorce lawyers in confidence, call (855) 516-1397, or send us your contact information and we will be in touch soon.