If you receive a divorce summons and petition filed by your spouse, you should speak with an attorney immediately. Read the summons and petition carefully and discuss your concerns with your attorney. You only have 20 days to respond to the petition, and you must consider the time it will take to find an attorney that is a good “fit.” Review the petition, locate paperwork and records, and complete any tasks that will be involved in preparing your response and filing it with the Court.
If you fail to file a response or fail to attend the initial court date for your custody case (called the parenting plan conference), a default judgment could be entered against you. You may be liable for alimony, payment of debts, or child support that you did not agree to or that is calculated incorrectly. Additionally, your spouse may be awarded custody of the children and possession of the marital residence. It is very important to file a timely response!
In some cases, the opposing attorney may call you and tell you to “come pick up your paperwork, or we will have you served at work.” Be very careful if this occurs. Most likely, the attorney will require you to sign a waiver of service that also impairs your ability to respond to your spouse’s allegations. It is far better to be served at work, or agree to meet the process server at a neutral location, than to sign any waiver.