Being served with divorce papers can be an overwhelming thing to deal with, especially when you are caught off guard. You may feel fear, grief, anger, and confusion. But it is important that you take control of the situation as quickly as possible in order to minimize the impact to your life. Here are some things you can do to get started on the right track.
1. Organize your financial documents.
It is very important that you don’t make any financial transactions that you would not normally make in your everyday life while your divorce is pending. Don’t move money into hidden accounts, don’t make large purchases, and don’t give away any money or property. Doing any of those things can get you into trouble later on when the judge is looking at your accounts. In many counties in Metro Atlanta, a standing order will be in effect in your case that restricts you from doing these things.
However, it is just as important that you know exactly what is going on in your financial life. You should know all of your accounts and their current values. This is especially important if your spouse normally takes care of the finances. Get together a detailed list with the account numbers, balances, and the names on the accounts. And while you’re at it, do the same for all of your debts as well.
2. Talk to your spouse.
I know this may not be the first thing you want to do right now, but it can be very important to many aspects of your life. It certainly doesn’t make the divorce process any easier if you are not able to have a calm and reasonable conversation with your spouse. And if you have children, you are going to have to figure out a way to co-parent them to adulthood. That is not easy to do when you aren’t speaking. So, after you take some time to process and calm down from the initial emotions, try to reach out to your spouse and start your path toward being amicable if at all possible.
3. Make sure you are meeting deadlines.
Take a day or two to breathe and process everything, but then you need to focus on the reality of the situation and do what you have to do. Being on time with responses is extremely important for your case.
You will have a deadline for your response to the divorce complaint and possibly other legal deadlines to meet very quickly. In Georgia, you typically have 30 days from the day you were served to respond to the complaint. Not responding, or responding late, can cause problems for you down the road. You also may have some other things to respond to, depending on what you were served.
This is the time to talk to an experienced divorce attorney and let them help you get your case off on the best track.
4. Look at your options for legal representation.
Sometimes people put off looking for an attorney to help them with their divorce. This can be for many reasons. Attorneys can be expensive, it is hard to find someone you trust, and you have so many things to deal with already. But it will be very helpful for you to get an attorney as early in the process as you can. The earlier you can get them involved, the more they can do to help your case move forward as smoothly as possible.
Finding an attorney you trust is the most important thing you can do. You need to feel comfortable telling the attorney everything about your life and being completely open and honest with them. Your attorney can’t help you when they don’t have all of the information. You also want someone who will make you and your case a priority. Ask any attorneys you talk to about how they handle client communication and how you will get updates on your case. Make sure you are clear on how often you will be updated and how you can keep up with what has been done.
If financial concerns are holding you back, talk to some attorneys and see if they offer alternative fees. Traditional attorney billing is based on an hourly rate and it can get very expensive. You will most likely have to pay a large retainer that the attorney will use to pay for the hours they have worked. But once that retainer is gone, you will have to continue to pay for the hours that are worked. At The McGowan Law Firm, we offer alternative billing options that can help you have a more clear understanding of how much your case will cost.