Whether expected or unexpected being served with divorce papers is a difficult thing for most people to deal with. In addition to the potential emotional turmoil being experienced there are several things you will need to take care of once you have been served.
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1) First you will need to schedule for the immediate deadlines.
In most divorce cases in Washington, DC you will be served with a Summons, a Notice of Initial Hearing, and the Complaint itself.
If your divorce case is in Washington, DC the Summons will give you 20 calendar days from the time you were served to file an Answer and any other responsive pleadings to the Complaint and direct you to appear in court. The Notice of Initial Hearing will set out the date and time of the Initial Hearing, the courtroom your case is in, and Judge in front of whom your case will be heard. The Complaint will outline any allegations made by your spouse against you and what type of relief they are seeking from the Court.
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2) Second you want to consider hiring an attorney.
In Washington, DC you are not required to have an attorney, but when your property rights, financial obligations, and/or custody matters are being adjudicated it is wise to go into court with a professional who can guide you through the labyrinth of law and procedure that await you. Click here for a quick reference guide on what to consider when hiring an attorney.
3) Third you need to organize your information.
Once a case has been started you should take several steps to organize the information that will be relevant to your case. Organize and make all potential documentary evidence easily retrievable, compile a list of potential witnesses who could help your case, and make a timeline of all events relevant to your case. Doing this legwork will help you make your case more efficient and save you resources when working with an attorney.
4) Fourth you need to prepare your answer and get ready for court
As mentioned above in D.C. you have 20 calendar days to file any responsive pleadings with the court. You will also need to serve your response on your spouse. Depending on the nature of what has been served on you and your response your preparation for the initial hearing may also need to be varied. You can follow this advice on tips for making a good impression in court.
Dissolving a marriage is a difficult time and there are many obstacles and pitfalls that can have negative repercussions lasting for years. Doing what you can to follow the advice above, and finding an attorney who you are comfortable with and who can help you craft a strategy to achieve a positive outcome, and avoid being trapped with a bad outcome.
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