I Was Served! How To Respond To Divorce Papers

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Being served divorce papers signifies the beginning of the end. Unfortunately, it does not always mean that appearing in court will necessarily happen quickly. Finalization could be months or years away, even after you have divorce papers in hand. In the meantime, what should you do to make the most of this time?

Preparing for the inevitable end of your marriage can give you a feeling of control. But it can also assist you in receiving all that you are entitled to as a participant in your marriage. Taking charge of the situation during this initial phase can give you a successful start toward a favorable resolution to your divorce process.

Once you are served with divorce papers, what do you need to do first? Here are a few tips for getting started on the right path:

1) Get organized.

When it comes to finalizing your divorce, you cannot underestimate the importance of organization. Begin by using this time to gather pertinent documents, including tax returns, bank statements, and information about retirement savings accounts. The more work you can do at this stage without the pressure of a time crunch, the more thorough you can be at assembling and gathering everything you need.

This stage could also be a good time to begin thinking through which assets or properties hold significant value to you. Is there a piece of furniture you want to claim in the settlement? Make a list of these items now—without the heat of spousal squabbles. Then you can more easily clarify which items are most important to you.

2) Assemble your team of professionals.

Depending on the complexity of your divorce, you may need to hire quite a few professionals to assist you. Team members may include an attorney, a certified divorce financial analyst, a forensic accountant, or a private investigator. Be sure to do research to determine which professionals have extensive experience in their field and great customer reviews.

You can also use this time to consider how much of the work you will be doing on your own. Some prefer to file their own paperwork, or you can just work out a settlement negotiation with your spouse. Others find their divorce to be more complicated. Therefore, they may need the assistance of an attorney to go to trial.

Knowing how much you want to complete on your own and how much you plan to spend can assist you with hiring the right professionals for the job.

Remember that the people you hire to handle your divorce are there for a purpose. It will be a business relationship, and should be managed as such. Select professionals that you can work with well, as you could be spending a large amount of time and money with your team.

The professionals you hire are the people responsible for assisting you in receiving the best possible settlement. These decisions are crucial for the future of your financial security, and they cannot be overlooked.

3) If possible, try to open the lines of communication with your spouse.

If possible, healthy communication can certainly speed up the process of agreeing on a settlement or a custody arrangement for your children. When a healthy level of open communication is possible, the process can be easier, less emotionally taxing, and significantly faster.

The more you and your spouse can sort out between you, the less involvement you will need from attorneys and other team members. If you open the lines of communication, both of you will typically have an easier negotiation and lower attorney fees.

However, under certain circumstances like abuse, bullying, or manipulation, you should not even consider communication. In these kinds of situations, allow the team you have assembled to handle most, if not all of the communication between the two of you.

4) Take care of your own emotional health.

Even though divorce is an extremely emotionally turbulent time in anyone’s life, the professionals you hire are not there to hear about your feelings. Instead, you hire them to handle the facts, and create a favorable divorce settlement; that is truly all you should be sharing with them.

Therefore, you will need to find another outlet for the emotional response triggered by the impending end of your marriage. For some, this outlet can be as simple as talking with friends over drinks, or taking a yoga class to practice mindfulness.

If you have a smaller support system, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a professional therapist. It may be worthwhile to consider seeking professional help to find coping skills if you feel overstressed.

Over time, the burden of extreme emotional distress can take a toll on your physical health and psyche. Sorting through your feelings can improve your well-being, and it can allow you to participate in your divorce process with a calmer demeanor and more level head. This mindset allows you to be firm during all the negotiations that are involved after being served divorce papers.

Early in the process, take control.

Being served divorce papers truly is the first step toward finalizing the end of your marriage. And it is the start of something new. You will quickly discover that there are a lot of items on your to-do list that require your attention. By taking control of the situation now, you can enter the rest of the process with increased levelheadedness and a sense of calm.

Take the first steps towards securing a financially healthy future in your soon-to-be single life. Once you are served divorce papers, it is time to take control of your life. Following these steps will help you before the divorce process even begins.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.