I was just served!


Lawyer's secret:   When a spouse is served with divorce papers, they should not read the contents (and not hire the first lawyer they meet).


Being served with divorce papers generally invokes a dramatic emotional response.  While some spouses talk about getting a divorce, when a spouse is served, he or she usually had no idea that their spouse had taken the next step and filed the case.  Getting served can also prove to be an embarrassing event, if the spouse is served in the presence of family or co-workers.  

Sometimes, spouses attempt to avoid being served, when they know someone is about to serve them with papers.  The best approach to being served, is to simply and politely accept the papers from whomever is serving them.  Usually the person serving papers is a Sheriff's police officer or licensed private investigator.  It doesn't serve a spouse's interest to avoid service, or being rude to the process server.  If anything, it could hurt your case.  Accept the papers and go from there.

Once you receive the papers, do not read the contents.  Let me repeat that, DO NOT READ THE CONTENTS.  The allegations contained with the papers (more formally called the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage), are usually generic, but some attorneys do put hurtful allegations within the documents (though, they are unnecessary).  These initial allegations usually get the best of someone's emotions, not knowing the precise legal implication of the allegations.  For this reason, there is no benefit to you reading the allegations, unless you're looking to be upset for a day or two, until a lawyer convinces you that the allegations are "par-for-the-course" and legally have no impact in the outcome of your case.

A good case scenario is when a spouse files for divorce and makes the general allegation within the initial documents "that it would be in the best interest of the child(ren), that sole custody be awarded" to him/her.  If your the spouse that had typically taken care of the kids, taken them to the doctor, and generally did everything for the kids, this sort of allegation would be very offensive.  What most spouses don't understand, at least initially, is that the allegation will likely have no legal implications in the case, and ultimately have no impact on the outcome of a custody decision.

By and large, spouses also make the second biggest mistake having been "served."  They quickly run and hire the first lawyer that's willing to meet with them.  Spouses should be well aware that they have 20 days after the date of service to take action in Court to address their divorce.  Running out and hiring the first lawyer you see will negatively impact you.  Take your time, meet with several lawyers, and only then, decide on the lawyer that you feel will best represent you in your case.  About 30% of my clients had previously hired someone else at the onset of their case, and only later realizing that their choice was a mistake.

While being served is scary, emotional, and will cause a good amount of fear, DO NOT be driven by instinct and run to a lawyer's arms.  Take your time with the selection process of retaining an attorney as this decision will largely impact what happens in your case.   

If you have any questions or concerns about this topic,
contact Paul D. Nordini at (480) 527-9000 or
email at: paul.nordini@divorceinfosite.com 

Nordini & Thompson is a law practice exclusive in divorce and custody litigation.