Handling an Unexpected Divorce

What to do when facing an unexpected divorce?

While things between you and your spouse may not have been perfect, you weren’t expecting to be served with divorce papers, now what?

New York divorce attorney, Leslie Montanile has advice for those in this situation;

  1. Identify the paperwork

    First, do not panic. Look at the papers and see if your spouse filed with a Summons and Complaint or just a Summons with Notice, regardless look at the end of the document served or on the face of the summons to see if your spouse is represented by an attorney or if he/she is representing themselves – this is called Pro Se.

    If there is a law firm identified, you will want to immediately find your own lawyer as you typically only have 20 days to respond to the Complaint – this is called filing an Answer.  If you are not able to find a lawyer in that time frame, don’t worry.  You can respond by going to the Court website listed on the document and find the Answer form (usually there are directions on the Court website to do this on your own) once you find a lawyer, they can amend the answer you filed, if necessary.

    If there is only a Summons with Notice, you will want to file a demand for Complaint from your spouse, which should also be done within the 20-day time frame. It is essential to respond in either case so that your spouse is not awarded a default judgment (for your failure to respond) for divorce.

  2. Manage your finances.

    Next, if you have a joint bank account with your spouse you will want to go to the bank and take out your share, usually 50%, should you withdraw more you may have to give that back to your spouse at a later date. Open a new bank account at a different bank and consider getting a safety deposit box for relevant documents and other valuables you may have.

    If you receive your bills electronically, change your passwords.  If you receive your mail at home, then perhaps you want to consider getting a P.O. Box that comes with a street address.

    Collect all of your financial information as soon as possible; mortgage payments, tax returns, utility bills, credit card debt, cars, insurance, etc. If done electronically, make sure to print out statements from each item in case your spouse changes the passwords.

  3. Protect your privacy.

    Set up a new e-mail account to use exclusively with your lawyer. Do not use your cell phone as a weapon of self-destruction – refrain from texting anything about your relationship to anyone. Text messages can be revealed during a divorce action, so think twice before your hit send. Stay off of ALL social media, especially if you have children. Anything you put on social media can be used in a divorce action, and while you may think it is harmless, it is often not construed that way. Social media will still be around when your divorce is finalized.

Finally, take a deep breath and look towards your future- if your spouse did not respect you enough to inform you of their desire to end your marriage, then, in the long run, you will be better off without them and know that you will find love again with the right partner.

Find more information about Leslie here.

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