I Have Been Served Divorce Papers. What Now?

What do I do if I have been served divorce paperwork by my spouse, or I know he or she has filed or will file for divorce?

You have only 30 days to Respond

Once you have been served, you have 30 days to file a Response with the court. In a divorce action, this deadline is more important than ever. While not so long ago, there was a 90-day waiting period in divorce cases, which has been done away with. What this means is that if you fail to file a Response, your spouse could proceed with having the divorce finalized, obtaining all his or her requested relief on that 31st day.

It is highly recommended that within the first 10 days of being served that you consult with an experienced attorney specializing in family law.

Initial Prep Work

Begin gathering basic financial information, including

  • last couple years’ tax returns
  • current paystubs
  • recent statements for retirement and investment accounts
  • credit card statements

If you have access to it, gather this information for your spouse’s accounts as well. Bring whatever you have had time to gather to that first appointment with your attorney, along with all of the documents you were served with.

Property Restraining Order

Once you have been served with divorce papers, an automatic property restraining order goes into place (ORS 107.089). Some of the rules are straightforward: do not remove your spouse as a beneficiary on any life insurance accounts, for instance. Others are more complicated, such as whether you are restrained from buying a new car or transferring money from a joint savings account. You will want to ask your attorney about what you are permitted to do.

Joint Accounts

If you share joint financial accounts with your spouse, watch them carefully. If your spouse were to suddenly withdraw a large amount of funds, for instance, you may be advised to obtain a specific property restraining order. If you have joint accounts online, print off the last two years’ of account activity. We recommend this in case your spouse later cuts off your online access.

Telling the Children

“Above all, put your child first. Remember: you can love your kids or hate your spouse… but you cannot do both.”
-Natalie Gregg

In cases of divorce, speak with your spouse about how to share the news of the divorce with the children if you haven’t already.  Make promises to each other about not bad-talking the other parent to the children or trying to manipulate them in the process.