Whether you saw it coming or it was a complete surprise, being presented with the evidence of your spouse pursuing divorce is never easy. If you have just been served with divorce papers, you are at very least overwhelmed and you are likely flooded with a myriad of emotions. We have highlighted some of the essential steps to take if you are served with divorce papers:
1) Emotional support: Maybe you are feeling confused, angry, anxious, conflicted, scared, or even relieved. It is important to attend to your overwhelming emotions and gather emotional support during this challenging time. Whether it is a close friend, a family member, and/or a professional, access your support system, gather your thoughts and emotions, and prioritize caring for yourself.
2) Response date: Read the divorce petition thoroughly. You can hash out the legalese later with your attorney, but pay close attention to the due date for response. This is a very important deadline.
3) Legal representation: Choose an experienced, knowledgeable family law attorney to help you navigate this process. Don't waste time before securing legal representation – get moving on this within the first week. Even in the most “simple” of divorces, there are various nuances that can occur and you need a skilled family law attorney in your corner to help ensure the most optimal outcome in your case.
4) Your response: Work with your attorney on your response, to be submitted before the due date listed on the divorce petition. Remember that Washington is a no-fault divorce state. Both spouses do not have to agree with the divorce for it to be granted by the court and the court does not need to designate fault or blame.
5) Consider your children: Be mindful of how a significant family change may affect your children. Keep the peace as much as possible, for your children's benefit. Resist involving them in the turmoil and prioritize their best interests. Do be prepared to talk to your children about what is happening. In addition to listening to them, you should be aware of warning signs that they are not coping well (significant mood changes, isolation, physical symptoms, substance abuse, etc.). Ensure they have adequate, appropriate support, with other family members, at school, and/or with a counselor.
6) Consider your assets: Division of property and debt can be particularly contentious, as we often place both emotional and financial value on our belongings. How property is ultimately divided can have long lasting impacts, in terms of your financial stability and lifestyle. These impacts can affect your life long after the divorce proceedings are finished, and what property division is determined upon divorce is very unlikely to be reversed later. It is essential that you work with a skilled, knowledgeable attorney during this time, who will advocate for your own best interests and for a division of assets that you feel is equitable.
Choosing to end a relationship that was meant to be forever is painful and difficult, and you should not try to tackle it alone. We hope you will consider contacting our skillful team of experienced family law attorneys. We are prepared to help you navigate the process, offer sound legal advice and counsel, and ultimately reach a resolution.