If you are served with paperwork for a divorce proceeding DON’T PANIC. Although most people are aware that they may be served, it is still somewhat of a shock to receive this type of paperwork. In actuality, you must prepare as if you were the plaintiff. The difference is that you must take an inventory of your assets and liabilities immediately because your spouse may have been taking inventory well in advance of serving you with your divorce paperwork.
This information includes, but is certainly not limited to, the following:
- Your three previous years of federal income tax returns including W-2’s and 1099’s;
- Twenty-four months of bank statements for any sole or joint bank accounts;
- Your latest statement from any pension, IRA’s, 401k’s and/or deferred compensation plans;
- Any appraisals of real property (within in the last six months).
It is also important to obtain, if possible, credit card statements and current balances of those credit cards that are in your name solely or jointly with your spouse.
If you have the opportunity to obtain copies of any financial information regarding your spouse’s assets (i.e. 401k or pension plans), you should do so. This is especially important if you believe your spouse will attempt to keep that information from you. The law requires that all parties shall be fully informed regarding the others financial situation; however, the more informed you are going into your divorce the better prepared you will be. This type of preparation helps to relieve stress in a very stressful situation. Most importantly, your attorney will be one step ahead of the game in protecting your interests from the outset.
A party to a divorce action is subject to automatic orders. You may review those orders by clicking on the link at this website’s home page or refer to your divorce paperwork, as it is required with the service of all complaints. These orders explain in detail what you may or may not do concerning custody of children, including removing them from the State of Connecticut. Other areas covered are the preservation of assets and limiting the incurring of liabilities during the pendency of the court action. If it is imperative that you obtain funds for living expenses and/or attorney’s fees during the court action you may do so as the automatic orders allow for these types of transactions without consent from the other side. Please understand that although you are allowed to do so, your spouse or their counsel may request relief from the court in the form of a contempt motion if they feel it is unwarranted.
Do not be discouraged that you have been deemed “the defendant” in your divorce. There is no advantage to a party being the plaintiff except that they may be more prepared than you in such areas as information and emotion. It is important that you begin to review the paperwork sent to you and write down any questions you may have regarding that paperwork. You may present these questions to an attorney when you meet with him/her to discuss your case. Further, you should review the claims for relief on the second page of the complaint because many people have questions concerning these claims. You should inquire with counsel what your claims for relief should be when you file your answer and counterclaim. These documents notify the plaintiff and their counsel of what your requests are in the divorce action. You may review the grounds for divorce at the Divorce Basics page of this website as you may use them as counterclaims in your paperwork.
The most common ground for divorce is irretrievable breakdown; however, a complaint may be amended at any time to include any of the reasons set forth in the grounds for divorce.
Finally, there are a variety of motions that to be may filed on your behalf with your answer and counterclaim. They include the following:
- Motions for custody and visitation of minor children;
- Motions for support of minor children;
- Motions for an alimony award for a qualified spouse; and
- Motions for exclusive possession of marital property.
These motions and subsequent orders are called “pendente lite” as they are temporary until final orders are entered by the court.
FEEL FREE TO CONTACT THE LAW OFFICES OF WILLIAM J. NEARY WITH ANY QUESTIONS. IT IS ALWAYS ADVISABLE TO SPEAK WITH LEGAL COUNSEL BEFORE PROCEDING WITH ANY LEGAL ACTION.