How Do I Protect Myself? What Are the Right Steps to Take?
When you’re handed a divorce complaint, whether expected or not, your emotions can quickly get the best of you. You can respond in a variety of ways, from confronting your spouse to simply hoping it will go away. But what’s the best course of action when you’re served with divorce papers? How can you best protect your interests and your future, your property, and your relationship with your children?
Hire an Experienced and Proven Divorce Attorney
Divorce is rarely simple, whether because of custody and visitation issues or concern about dividing up debts and assets. If you’re served with divorce papers, it’s highly likely that your spouse is already represented by legal counsel. You’ll be at a distinct disadvantage if you try to handle the divorce by yourself. In matters as complex as divorce, support, custody, visitation, and property division, you want to defer to a proven professional.
Minimize Contact with Your Spouse
In the time immediately following the filing of a divorce complaint, emotions can be raw on both sides. You may not want the divorce and may think you need to show your spouse that you’re willing to change, or that you want the marriage to work. Unfortunately, putting yourself in proximity with your spouse simply increases the likelihood that you’ll say or do something you’ll regret, often fueled by your hurt, anger, or disappointment. It’s best to let things cool down a bit and communicate through your attorney.
Don’t Ignore the Complaint
A petition for divorce is a legal document that must be responded to within a certain period of time. If you fail to answer the complaint by the due date (usually 30 days), your spouse can ask the court for a default judgment. If default judgment is entered, it may be extremely difficult to overturn. If you want any say in the terms of the divorce, do not just put the complaint in a drawer and hope your spouse will have a change of heart.
Get a Clear Picture of Your Finances
Your financial situation will have an impact on almost every aspect of the divorce, including the calculation of child support, the need for spousal support, and the division of marital debts and assets. The better you prepare to deal with financial issues, the more favorable results you’ll usually get. Gather written documentation of all things financial in a single place, including the following:
- An inventory of all debts and assets, with documentation of whether the property/obligation was obtained or incurred before or during the marriage. Include real estate, bank accounts, investment portfolios, business interests, retirement plans, and insurance policies.
- Evidence of income for you and your spouse during the marriage
- Evidence of any other resources available to you or your spouse, such as inheritances or personal injury awards
While you’re gathering financial information, look for ways to reduce your expenses. Divorce can be expensive and you may have fewer resources to meet greater needs. Reducing your financial outlay can be an important way to minimize the stress that comes with a divorce proceeding.
Keep a Low Profile
There can be an inclination, with such a life-changing event, to make it the focus of your life and share about it with friends and on social media. It’s better to simply take a breath, keep to yourself for a few days or even weeks, and come to grips with it. If you make it too public too soon, you might say things you won’t be able to take back, things you’ll regret in the long run. It’s a deeply personal matter—keep it that way, at least for a while.
Contact the Dedicated Family Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with a proven Texas wills and trusts lawyer, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.