In many divorce cases, both people know divorce is coming. And in some divorces, one person has no idea the other party wants a divorce. But in almost every case, actually being served with divorce papers comes as a shock, if not a surprise. In New Jersey, to begin divorce proceedings your lawyer must prepare your divorce complaint and file it with the court before divorce papers can be served so there is proof that one spouse is suing the other spouse for divorce.
Being 'served with divorce papers' means that an official court document – a Summons and Complaint For Divorce - is delivered to you, stating that your spouse is suing you for divorce and setting forth what your spouse wants in the divorce. Officially called a Summons and a Complaint For Divorce, this summons says the court has the power to hear and determine the case.
After you have filed a Complaint for Divorce in New Jersey, you need to serve the papers, along with a summons, on your spouse within 10 days after filing the divorce papers. This is often a stressful and difficult thing to do – especially if your spouse does not want the divorce. As an alternative, if your spouse hires counsel prior to being served, they can elect for their counsel to accept service of process on their behalf and, in many cases, spare them the embarrassment that sometimes occurs when being served at work.
Under New Jersey law, the defendant must be personally served and hand delivered a copy of the divorce paperwork, or you may agree to for the divorce papers to be served to you through an attorney.
1. Read the Papers
A divorce summons requires that you respond to the court within a certain time period. Most states also require that you serve your spouse with a copy of your response. If you ignore the divorce summons and miss the deadline, the court may take this as a signal that you will not contest the divorce and that you agree to all terms in the summons. The divorce can then be granted to your spouse by default - including all the conditions and terms they requested.
Find the response due date listed in the summons and consider it a serious deadline. In New Jersey, you have 35 days after being served with the divorce complaint to file a response or a default judgement will be determined by the court.
2. Seek Support
Divorce is not easy. Telling close family and friends about your divorce - not putting it on social media blast - can provide the support you need, as well as referrals for divorce counsellors, child psychologists, attorneys, financial advisors and other resources and support you might need to help navigate a divorce.
3. Consult An Attorney
If you’ve been served with divorce papers, you do have options. Some couples decide to call off their divorce, others battle it out in court, and others decide to negotiate a divorce that works for them and their family. Consulting an experienced divorce and family law attorney will help you understand your options, including
- the type of divorce you want
- the costs of hiring an attorney and divorce litigation
- alternative options and resources
It’s normal to be angry or shocked when served with divorce papers. Ignoring the divorce summons or starting The War of the Roses with your spouse will not help you. Divorce can be stressful, painful and expensive. If children are involved, you want them to be protected during this process - regardless of the outcome - to ensure a child custody and child support agreement that is in their best interests.
CONTACT OUR SOUTH JERSEY FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS
At Stolfe Zeigler New Jersey Family Law Group, we have experienced how divorce can bring out the worst in people. Our New Jersey attorneys have seen a wide range of divorce situations, fluctuating from the most amicable of couples to those who simply will not be in the same room together. No matter how complex or difficult your unique situation is, our team is prepared to help you through every step of the legal process.
You are not alone while in your divorce. We take the time to understand the unique details of your circumstances before proceeding with a solution that’s right for you - whether that is negotiation, collaborative law, mediation, or litigation. Regardless of which divorce option you choose, our goal is to help you find the most effective solution so you can start moving forward with your life.
To schedule an initial consultation in either our South Jersey or our Moorestown offices with a member of our divorce and family law team, don’t hesitate to contact us by calling (732) 240.9555 or (856) 812.9020.