We’re Talking About Divorce: What do I do now?

If you’ve never been through a divorce before, you’re probably wondering how you should proceed. Whenever you find yourself in unchartered territory, it can be confusing and overwhelming to figure out what you should do under your particular circumstances. You know that, strategically speaking, the choices you make now are pretty critical and you don’t want to jeopardize your future because you made a hasty decision too early in the process. It can be easy to feel paralyzed by fear.

The truth is that you don’t actually HAVE to do anything unless your husband has already filed for divorce and had you served. After you’re served, you have 21 days to do something. If you haven’t met with an attorney yet, that’s okay, because there’s still plenty of time—you should just be aware that the clock is ticking.

It’s tempting, when you’re faced with something you don’t really want to deal with, to bury your head in the sand a little. When the legal system is involved, though, that’s a dangerous instinct. The 21 days are ticking whether your head is in the sand or whether you’re actively interviewing potential attorneys to handle your case.

If you haven’t been served yet, you have time to take a deep breath and figure out what your next step should be. It can be difficult to move forward with dissolving your marriage, so sometimes it takes time before a woman is able to take the next step. If that’s you, that’s okay. As long as nothing has been filed in your case, there’s no reason to hurry yourself along—unless, of course, you want to hurry along.

How do you know if what you’re receiving means that your husband has filed for divorce? Well, for one thing, it would have to be served on you. That could mean that a process server hands you something, or it could mean that the documents are posted to the front door of your house. Also, the document you’ll receive, if your husband has filed for divorce, will be called a “complaint.”

What else might you receive? The most likely scenario is that you would receive a copy of a draft of a separation agreement, prepared by your husband or his attorney. That wouldn’t have to be served on you; you would probably receive it in the regular mail. Also, it would say, “Separation Agreement,” “Separation and Stipulation Agreement,” “Property Settlement Agreement,” or something similar. This does not mean that you have 21 days to respond; this, you can ignore, if you so choose.

Still, the best course of action, if you receive any correspondence from your husband or his attorney, is probably to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to make sure you know what’s going on. If you don’t know, it could really cost you.

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