I Think My Spouse has Filed for Divorce – What Happens Next?
Whether you were served with divorce papers from a sheriff, saw a notice in the newspaper, or heard the news through a family member, finding out your spouse has filed for divorce is difficult and can be overwhelming. Don’t panic. Below is an overview of what you need to know and do next:
Does it matter who files for divorce first?
Generally, it does not matter who files the divorce case first. The person who files the case first is called the Petitioner. The other person is called the Respondent.
Do I have to be served with divorce papers?
The Petitioner must provide you with notice via service of process. Service of process is usually done by the local county sheriff’s department coming to your home or place of employment, and handing you the summons and petition. If you are not home, but someone you live with is home, the process server might be able to leave the summons and petition with the person who is home, as long as that person is over the age of 13.
It is important to note that attempting to avoid a sheriff so that you can’t be served will not stop the divorce from moving forward. The court can appoint a special process server to serve you with the documents outside of your home or place of employment. The court can also allow for an alternative method of service, such as publishing a notice in the newspaper for 3 weeks.
What are these papers I received?
The summons states what type of proceeding has been filed, provides a timeline for when you have to respond, and explains what county and courthouse the divorce action will take place. The petition for dissolution of marriage is the initial document that asks the court to make decisions regarding the parties’ property, debts, custody of the children, and any other matters that need to be resolved.
Now that I’ve been served with these papers, what do I do next?
Once you are served with the divorce papers, you will have 30 days to file an appearance and an answer to the petition for dissolution of marriage. The appearance tells the court and your spouse that you intend to participate in the case either on your own or through an attorney. The answer is a written response to the petition stating whether you agree or disagree with each claim your spouse made.
What if I don’t respond?
If you choose to ignore your spouse’s divorce petition, the case can move forward without you. Your spouse can ask that the court grant everything requested in the petition without your input. This means that you might be stuck paying your spouse’s debts or losing time with your children. Don’t be in denial—it could have serious consequences!
Why should I talk to a lawyer?
Going through a divorce can be overwhelming. Illinois has numerous rules and procedural requirements, such as the Financial Affidavit, that are difficult to understand. The knowledgeable attorneys at Bruning & Associates, P.C. are here to help you navigate through this tough time and make the best of a difficult situation. Please contact our office at 815-455-3000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your family law needs.
Click here to learn more about Attorney Kristine V. Ruhl.