Last updated on August 11th, 2023 at 05:23 pm
Often, soon-to-be divorcees get stuck or bogged down at some stage of their marriage termination process since they don’t know what the next step is. They may be afraid to move forward because of this uncertainty.
You can consult a lawyer if you have questions about the divorce process, or you can do some research online to learn what happens after serving divorce papers. This way, you can make future plans, have realistic expectations, and lower your stress level.
Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process involved in finalizing your divorce once the serving process is complete.
What Is Divorce Serving
Whether you apply for a divorce online or hand in completed divorce forms personally, your next task is to let your partner know about your intentions to end your marriage and notify them that the divorce process has started. You can do this through the official serving procedure.
Serving divorce papers is the legal process of announcing your wish to terminate your marriage and delivering divorce documents to your partner, indicating your intentions regarding the post-divorce relationship. The divorce papers may include summons, complaints, and any other forms you have filed with the court.
You may deliver documents to your spouse by yourself (if it is allowed in your state), send them by mail, or hire a professional service expert or a sheriff. As soon as you’ve served the other party, you should provide proof of service to the court so you can move to the next stage of the divorce process.
What Happens After Serving Divorce Papers
For many divorcees, the initial steps in the divorce process, such as preparing documents, submitting them to the court, etc., are pretty straightforward–at least up until divorce papers are served. However, determining what happens after serving divorce papers may be challenging for many spouses, especially without a divorce lawyer representing them.
Following are the stages you can expect to move through as your divorce progresses:
- Response – The spouse serving divorce papers (the person initiating the divorce) is named a petitioner, while the partner who receives them is a respondent. After being served, a respondent commonly has between 20 and 30 days, depending on local regulations, to provide their response. It implies they should read all the divorce papers delivered to them and provide their opinion on the divorce terms specified in writing, either agreeing to them or filing a counterclaim. They may choose to hire their own attorney and contest certain aspects of the divorce. A default judgment may be issued if they do not respond within the given time frame.
- Negotiations – After both spouses have voiced their divorce-related intentions, which are usually different, especially in contested cases, they need to try to come to an agreement through negotiation. It is a process where both spouses and their attorneys discuss all divorce matters, such as property division, child custody, alimony, etc., and find mutually beneficial solutions on how these issues should be resolved.
- Mediation – If negotiations are unsuccessful and partners cannot find a compromise, they can ask a mediator for help. This qualified person can direct spouses through a discussion on their divorce, help future exes agree on the main divorce issues peacefully, and assist in completing a settlement agreement outside of court. Mediation can be less expensive and less contentious than going to trial.
- Discovery and temporary orders – during the divorce process, either spouse may file for temporary orders to address issues like child custody, support, and spousal support. These orders remain in effect until the court makes final divorce decisions. Also, spouses should typically engage in the discovery process to gather information about each other’s finances, assets, and debts.
- Court hearings – It may happen that spouses still cannot arrive at a compromise after mediation, so their divorce case goes to court. It is typically a longer and more expensive process, and the judge will make the final decision on any contested issues. Spouses will present their arguments and evidence, and the judge will formulate the proposal for a divorce settlement based on the local laws and best interests of all parties involved. It is usually final and binding and guides spouses on important matters of their life after marriage termination.
- Finalizing – No matter which option of negotiating the divorce terms you choose, you will need to either fill out the settlement agreement with your final decisions on all divorce-related issues and have the court approve them, or abide by the court order specifying the decisions made by the judge. It is when your divorce is over, and you obtain papers, such as the final divorce decree, when everything becomes “official,” such as child custody issues, property division matters, alimony arrangements, etc. In some cases, one spouse may appeal the final divorce decree if they believe there was an error or issue with the ruling. This can add time and expenses to the divorce process.
This is just a brief explanation of what happens after divorce papers are served and the steps that bring the marriage termination process to a conclusion. However, remember that every divorce is different, and not all cases will follow this scenario exactly. Be prepared for any issues that might arise, and consult a lawyer about the best course of action in your particular case.
What Happens If Serving Is Impossible
Things don’t always go smoothly in life, and when in the midst of a divorce, this can certainly be true. Your marriage termination process may have complications, even if you’re prepared and have done everything correctly. For instance, what happens if you can’t serve someone court papers? This is a problem that can and does happen.
Here are several possible outcomes if serving divorce papers is impossible:
- The inability to serve the papers properly may delay the entire process significantly.
- The court may not have the authority to hear your marriage termination case until you have served your spouse and they have responded.
- If you cannot serve your spouse because you don’t have their current address or location, you may have to enlist your lawyer or a private detective to assist in finding your spouse.
- If you cannot serve your soon-to-be ex directly, you can choose service by publication in the local newspaper or even on social media.
- In some instances, your case may be processed by default, even with your partner submitting no response. However, make sure to provide proof to the court that you have tried all options possible to serve your soon-to-be-ex.
If all your attempts to serve your spouse divorce papers are unsuccessful, it’s possible the court will issue a default judgment, or your divorce petition could be canceled, and you will have to start the process all over again.
While filing for divorce is a common legal procedure, some of the steps, particularly what happens after serving divorce papers, may differ depending on the case specifics.
It’s a good idea to be prepared for any possible outcome at each stage of the divorce process. No matter whether there is agreement on the basic issues, long negotiations with or without mediation, or court hearings that determine the final outcome, make sure to prepare carefully for any scenario.
It’s also wise to rely on your lawyer’s advice for the best chance of success. And, though not always possible, cooperation and proactive communication between spouses will make any case easier and will streamline the process.