So you’ve been served with a Summons and Petition for divorce. Maybe you saw it coming; maybe it was a complete surprise. In either case, you may be asking yourself, “Now what?” Although every situation is different, there are a number of things that you should do to protect yourself and make sure you are in the best position going forward.
· Don’t panic. Sure, it’s natural to be nervous, but freaking out won’t solve anything.
· Take note of deadlines. You don’t want to take the chance that your spouse will get a judgment by default. Take a look at the Summons; it should tell you how long you have to respond. In Minnesota, you have 30 days from the date of service to serve an Answer and Counterpetition.
· Contact a family-law attorney as soon as possible. Even if you plan on handling the case without an attorney (“pro se” in fancy lawyer-speak), you should meet with an attorney to get an idea of your rights, responsibilities, and the process. If you do hire an attorney, it is helpful to give him or her as much time as possible to draft a response.
· Start organizing. You should begin gathering important financial documents, such as tax returns, recent paystubs, bank and credit card statements, mortgage and loan documents, and retirement account information as soon as possible. If you have children, make copies of birth certificates, insurance cards, medical and school records, and statements for any daycare costs. If there are documents that demonstrate your involvement in the children’s lives, those can be valuable when addressing custody and parenting time.
· Don’t make rash decisions. Divorce triggers emotional responses that can lead to poor life choices. Now is not the time to make major purchases, large adjustments to retirement accounts, career changes, or significant long-term decisions (unless they cannot be avoided).
· Keep the kids out of the middle. Don’t discuss the divorce in front of your kids or make negative comments about your spouse in their presence. Likewise, children are not bargaining chips; don’t try to keep them from your spouse to “punish” him or her. Children should never be made to feel as though they need to take sides or choose one parent over the other. Involving the kids in your dispute will almost certainly be held against you in court.
· Be on your best behavior. Don’t do anything that could hurt your case. This includes abstaining from, or limiting use of, alcohol and drugs; not posting inappropriate things on social media; controlling your temper, and avoiding legal trouble.
· Keep focused on the long term. Eventually, the divorce will be over and you will move on with your life. Don’t get so caught up in the negative aspects of the present that you forget about the future. By being proactive, you can positively influence the outcome.
To discuss your divorce, or any family-law issue, contact Kruse Family Law, PLLC at 612.231.9865, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.