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I got served with a Petition for Divorce, what do I do now?

Being served with a Petition for Divorce is a frustrating and trying experience.  As a Tampa divorce attorney, I have encountered hundreds of folks in this exact situation.  Like all situation, the best thing you can do is to develop a plan and considering the entire situation.   Given our experiences with divorces, we recommend the following plan of action.

First and foremost, DO NOT PANIC.  You have time to consider and evaluate the situation and determine the best course of action.   From a legal perspective, there are several important things to consider and recall.  Under Florida Law, you have twenty (20) days to respond to the Petition for Divorce. If necessary, we can also request additional time to respond to the Petition, if necessary.  As I always tell folks, it is generally not a surprise for them to be served with the Petition, they knew it was coming.  This is not the time to quickly type up a response based on something you find on the internet and quickly filing it.  Again, you have time, use it to consider the Petition for Divorce and your options to respond to it.  Many folks also panic at the allegations in the Petition, like demands for alimony, attorney’s fees, etc.  It is important to understand that these items have to be requested by a Petitioner or they are waived forever, so while they may be requested, it doesn’t mean they are going to get them.  Many Tampa divorce attorneys includes request all possible remedies in the Petition as a matter of course, knowing that they will not get everything.

Secondly, it is important to consider your personal and financial well-being.  This is not the time to contact the Petitioner and to begin arguing about it.  Frankly, the Petition for Divorce has been filed and served; it is more than likely too late to convince the other party to withdraw the Petition for Divorce.  The call is more than likely going to only lead to additional fighting and arguing, which is critical to avoid at such an early stage of the proceeding.  While many of your friends are going to encourage you to go out and try to make some major purchases or changes to your wardrobe or lifestyle, this is simply not the time to do so.  Unfortunately, a divorce will ultimately cause some negative impact on your financial wellbeing.  While everyone hears about large payments of alimony and child support, those payments may take years to get to be awarded and then even longer to get actually paid.  During the divorce, it is critical to conserve your financial resources as much as possible.  It is also worth noting this is also not the time to notify your children of the Petition.  Unfortunately, children will be exposed to enough emotional and psychological hardship during the divorce.  It is absolutely critical to safeguard your children as much as possible for their wellbeing and strategic purposes concerning time sharing.

Lastly, this is time to determine whether you will hire a Tampa divorce attorney or not.  A Tampa divorce attorney can assist you in ensuring you get everything you are entitled to, like alimony, child support, time sharing, use of the marital house and assets, etc.  Without a Tampa divorce attorney, you may forever waive your rights to these things or have to go back later and get the Court to modify the previous agreement.  Tampa divorce attorneys will ensure you are put in the best situation possible, including seeking attorney’s fees from the other party.  Many times Courts will award attorney’s fees to the more financially distressed party to assist them in paying for their attorney.  We have had success in getting our clients’ attorney’s fees to assist in our representation of them.  When you meet with your potential attorneys, make sure you bring the petition for divorce with you, so they can review it.

When determining which Tampa divorce attorney to hire, we strongly recommend you meet many attorneys and determine which one you are most comfortable with.  Many Tampa divorce attorneys offer free case consultations, including our firm, and we recommend you take folks up on this offer, so you can meet as many as possible.  Before coming into a consultation, we recommend developing a list of questions and writing them down before the meeting.    Unfortunately, many folks simply freeze up and forget their questions during their consultation, that’s why we recommend bringing in a list of prepared questions.   Unlike many other matters, divorces are very personal and require very personal conversations about people’s lives, it is important you are very comfortable with your Tampa divorce attorney.

If you or someone you know has questions concerning their Tampa divorce, contact our office for a free case consultation with one of our Tampa divorce attorneys.   We offer free case consultations and have handled many of these matters throughout the entire Tampa Bay area.   If you wish to contact one of our Tampa divorce attorneys immediately, use the “contact us now” tab in the upper right hand corner of our website.  We appreciate your time in checking out our website and look forward to hearing from you.