Your nightly routine received an abrupt disruption. A legal messenger served divorce papers just as you were about to have dinner. This was not unexpected, since you and your spouse separated nearly four months ago. Still, the news can be startling while awakening you to the inevitable end of your marriage.
Anger and sadness are natural. First, let the news set in. Take three deep breaths and try your best to remain as calm as possible. Take a walk to cool off or pursue some other quick activity that allows you to release any negative energy. Do not make any rash moves such as calling your spouse and making demands. Now, you wonder, “What do I do next?” There are plenty of things that you need to accomplish.
Stay calm, read the documents, get a lawyer
It is time to prepare for divorce if you already have not done so. You must protect yourself. Once you have been served with divorce papers, here are some crucial steps to take:
- Try to stay calm, and, by all means, do not contact your spouse who has made it clear that your marriage is beyond repair. It is time to move on.
- Thoroughly read the divorce papers to get feel for what to expect. Details likely included are those related to child custody matters, child support, alimony/spousal support and division of assets. Do not be alarmed by the great amount of your personal information included. And you must abide by deadlines set.
- Hire an attorney. Get referrals and find the best fit. An attorney helps you in several ways such as strategizing in filing a response and guiding you in parenting plans along with mediation.
- Assemble your essential financial documents. Be organized as you prepare for a settlement that will likely take several months to conclude. The list includes mortgage statements as well as documents related to bank accounts, money market funds, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457 plans and pension plans). This is one way to determine marital and non-marital property.
Your spouse took the first steps by moving out and serving divorce papers. Now, you must prepare and protect yourself. Doing so will only help you in your effort to carry on with your life.