What To Do If Served Divorce Papers

I’m often asked what to do if you are served divorce papers. First, READ all of the documents fully and don’t panic. The summons that accompanied the divorce papers will set forth some obligations, for example you will have 20-30 days to file a response.

Use that time wisely. Talk to trusted friends and others that have gone through the process. Call and speak to the attorneys that those trusted friends have referred to you. After talking to a couple of attorneys, schedule and appointment with at least one of them to discuss representation.

Note: many divorce attorneys do not do free consultations. That is OK – you get what you pay for. Most of the top attorneys do not have the time, nor do they need to offer free consultations. Invest some time and money in yourself and your future.

A response to a Petition for Dissolution is relatively simple and straightforward. The responding party generally answers each allegation, most of which are admitted. Since most Petitions ask for custody and division of property, an answer/response should suggest your request for relief. An attorney can typically prepare and file a Response within 24 hours of undertaking representation.


  1. Do not let the time lapse. A default judgment can be taken against you if you do not respond to the Petition. Even if you cannot afford an attorney, hand write your response and file it with the court.
  2. Do not believe everything your spouse says. Every attorney has horror stories of the spouse that said, “you don’t have to respond” only to get a default judgement; or “I only want joint custody” only to go to court without the other party and get a judge of sole custody.
  3. Don’t stick your head in the sand. This case is not going away. Speak to a professional who is trained and regularly handles this type of case.
  4. Don’t assume the worst. Often the initial filing overstates the case. Many cases do resolve with joint custody and without payment of the other’s legal fees, despite an initial filing requesting something different.

If you have been served, contact a local family law/divorce attorney who regularly practices in the county of filing. For consultation in Boone, Campbell and Kenton Counties, contact Michael Bouldin by following link or email mike@bouldinlawfirm.com or call 859-581-6453 (581-MIKE).

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