You were just served with a summons for divorce in New York, what do you do now?
1. Beware of Legal Deadlines
Service of the summons triggers the clock; time is of the essence. After you were personally served with the summons, you will have 20 days to appear or move against the summons. If you were served with a summons and complaint, you will have to file and serve an answer. If you fail to timely respond, a judgment of divorce could be entered against you by default.
2. Retain Counsel
Now is the time to consult with and retain counsel. An attorney will be mindful of all the deadlines and will take the appropriate actions to preserve your legal rights. When you consult with an attorney, you should speak honestly and with candor. Do not hold back any relevant facts ( good or bad) so that the lawyer could accurately evaluate your case, advise you of your rights, and formulate a viable divorce strategy.
3. Gather your financial records
You should start gathering your financial information, including your tax returns, bank and investment account statements, mortgage and credit card bills. You will need the records to resolve the financial issues of your divorce.
4. Be aware of the Automatic Orders.
The service of the summons also initiates enforcement of the “automatic orders.” The automatic orders prevent you and your spouse from closing bank accounts, changing beneficiary designations, canceling insurance policies, incurring debts, or spending money other than in the normal course. If you violate the automatic orders, you could be found to be in contempt of court.
5. Prepare your children for the divorce.
Parents should jointly communicate the divorce to the children without assigning fault or blame. Assure your children that though you and your spouse are divorcing, neither of you are divorcing them; the children should know that they will continue to have two parents who love them.
The top parenting priority should be to minimize the stress put on the children.
- The children should be immune to the conflicts between you and your spouse. They should not be part of the divorce process or negotiations. Likewise, they should not access to the legal papers or your communications with your attorney.
• The children should not be used as your confidant or your spy.
• Encourage the relationship with the other parent
• Refrain from saying discouraging things about the other parent.
• As soon as possible, implement a regular parenting time. Let the children know when they will see each parent.
If you require assistance after you have been served with a summons in a New York divorce, call me to schedule a consultation. I can be reached at 212-683-9551.