I’ve been served, what do I do?
The first step
You need to call an attorney immediately. The first few days are absolutely critical to ensuring that you have a team of advocates working for you to make sure that you and your interests are protected.
Is there a deadline to respond?
Yes. As with any law suit you have a specific amount of time to submit a written response. In the case of a divorce, you have twenty (20) days. If you do not submit a timely response, you can risk getting a default judgement, or the petitioning party can get all the things that they requested in their petition without any negotiations. This is why it is so important to contact an attorney immediately to start composing a thorough and detailed response to the petitioner’s demands.
What is the difference between a counter-petition and a response and do I need to do both?
Yes. You should definitely file both. The difference between a response and a counter-petition is that a response is merely that, a response saying that you either agree or disagree with the claims made in the petition. You cannot ask for anything and the document is entirely reliant on the existence of the petition. This is the document that is most time sensitive. You must file it within twenty (20) days of being served with your spouse’s petition. You can take a little bit more time in filing the counter-petition, but for the sake of simplicity it is usually best to file them at the same time.
In a counter-petition, you cover many of the same issues that a response covers, but you have recourse to make your own requests. Furthermore, your counter-petition is not reliant on the original petition. For example, say your spouse decides to withdraw his or her petition because they are moving, or some other significant life event has occurred and they want to wait to pursue the divorce. If you only filed a response, the proceedings would be halted and if you wanted to pursue the divorce you would have to file a separate petition and create a new court case. However, if you file a response and a counter-petition, you will be able to continue to pursue your demands even if your spouse withdraws their petition.
What needs to be in the counter-petition or response?
The essential components of a response to a Petition for Divorce include:
An acknowledgement that you received the petition
A statement either agreeing or disagreeing with the petitioner’s terms and demands
Any defenses you have regarding the allegations made in the petition
Any reason that the court in which the petition was filed might not have jurisdiction over the case
In a counter-petition you need to include all the things listed in the response, as well as:
An outline of your own requests for relief
Any counter-allegations that your spouse committed that caused detrimental harm to the marriage
Many law firms have a standard form that just has you check boxes. We don’t do that. We believe in doing a thorough, detailed, and personalized response and counter-petition every time. Schedule a consultation with us and you will see the difference that a personalized and dedicated approach can make in getting you the best possible result.
What do I do next?
Once you and your attorney have completed your response and counter-petition they must be filed at the family desk at the court clerk’s office. After the response and counter-petition have been filed you need to serve your spouse. If your spouse already has an attorney, you or your attorney can mail the documents directly to your spouse’s attorney. If your spouse does not have an attorney, then the response and counter-petition must be served either via a process server or certified mail.
Boeheim Freeman Law is committed to helping you through this process and providing you with the best legal representation and counsel. Why hire an attorney, when you can hire a team?