I’ve been served divorce papers. What do I do now?

As with nearly all major events of life, there are specific steps to follow to complete a divorce in Rhode Island. Whether you are seeking a “no fault” divorce, citing irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, or for a contested dissolution for other reasons, such as some unacceptable behavior or circumstance, the course of events tend to follow a complicated but certain routine.

The proceedings begin with one spouse engaging an attorney to review all possible issues, including whether the couple is even eligible to divorce under the law. Once that determination is made and the appropriate legal documents are drafted and filed with the court, the paperwork must be legally served on the other spouse. That spouse then faces the need to respond.

Steps in response

State laws vary on what’s required in response after you’ve been served with divorce papers. In Rhode Island, the deadline is usually about 20 days, and the response should include:

  • Acknowledgment of document service
  • And a statement of your agreement or disagreement with the complaint

The response should make your position clear on the statements made in the original petition and your view on the proposals made regarding such things as property division and spousal support.

If children are a factor, the response should speak to the issues of custody and visitation. For example, if the initial petition calls for the petitioner to have sole physical custody, you might find it important to ask for joint custody. You will want to detail reasons that support use of that model. It’s important to always keep in mind that the courts will consider such matters in the context of what it considers to be the best interests of the child.

Failing to respond

If you don’t respond at all, the courts may rule that grounds are sufficient to grant your spouse a no fault divorce.

Divorce by its nature is complicated financially, emotionally and legally. Navigating the process is easier with experienced counsel at your side.

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