I’ve Been Served With Divorce Papers. What Now?
Though human nature can be to panic, being served with Colorado divorce papers is just the beginning of the process. The other person filing or you being served has nothing substantively to do with resolution of a divorce case. Service of the Petition and Summons gives the court personal jurisdiction over the person being served, nothing more. Though panic is generally not in order, service should be taken seriously. Upon service, there are various deadlines that come into play, as well as procedural steps that will need to be taken to protect yourself and your rights.
With service of divorce papers, both parties are under a statutory injunction which precludes either one from engaging in certain behaviors. The general purpose of this injunction is to prevent parties from engaging in actions designed to affect the other, the children, or the marital estate. Specifically, C.R.S. 14-10-107 sets forth that while the case is pending, neither party may remove the children from Colorado without permission, hide, dispose of, or encumber martial assets, change insurance policies (whether health, life, home, etc.), or disturb the peace of the other party. Courts can take violations of this injunction seriously and you should consult with a Denver family law attorney if you have any questions as to how you should proceed (or if you believe your spouse if violating the injunction.)
In terms of procedure and deadlines, your first step will be to file a Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The divorce petition served is generally a basic document, setting forth marital and other statistics, such as names, addresses, date of marriage, and other informational items. Substantively, it will also set forth the relief the filing spouse is seeking, such as division of property or alimony (maintenance). Statute indicates that the served party has twenty-one (21) days from the date of service to file a response. If served outside of Colorado, the 21 days increases to thirty-five (35). The actual response is a simple, though important document, generally one or two pages in length. As with the petition, the response will set forth whether the statistical information is correct and the relief the served party is seeking. Filing the response on time is important, as there is an argument that failure to do so could be deemed a waiver to seek additional relief beyond that which is pled in the petition. In reality, most courts are not going to get too hung up if a response is not filed on time. Regardless, the Denver family law attorneys at Plog & Stein advise clients to meet all deadlines, so as to be in compliance and provide certainty to the equation.
In addition to responding to the divorce papers, there are sometimes situations in which something other than a “response” needs to be filed. For example, someone may file a petition based on a common law marriage which you believe does not exist. Perhaps you have been served with Colorado divorce papers, but live elsewhere and have no ties to Colorado such that you are subject to the court’s jurisdiction. In these instances, there may be a need to file a Motion to Dismiss, which must be done within 21 days as well. Likewise, venue, meaning which county is the proper location for the case to be heard, might also be wrong, thereby necessitating a Motion to Change Venue. Failure to assert your rights within that 21 day time frame can have an impact on your case and future.
Finally, service will also trigger other deadlines, such as those related to the financial disclosure process or the setting of your first court engagement. Again, being served is just a first step and nothing to panic about. However, it is advisable to ascertain and understand your rights quickly. You also should strongly consider contacting a Denver divorce attorney.