If you have been served with divorce papers, it is helpful to have an understanding of what the papers mean, and how they function as part of the legal process. The initiating papers and the responding papers are what are known as “pleadings.” They must be filed with the court and served on the opposing party within certain time frames. Once you have been served, it is best to consult with an attorney who can guide you through the divorce process and answer questions about the specifics of your case.
Most often, a defendant in a divorce action will receive what is called a Summons and Complaint. The Complaint will outline the reasons for the divorce. It should be noted, however, that New York is a “no-fault divorce” state as of 2010. This means that the only reason need be pleaded is that the marriage has been “irretrievably broken” for six months or more. However, a plaintiff can still plead the “fault” grounds under the New York Domestic Relations Law.
A defendant has a limited amount of time --generally twenty days-- to serve what’s called an Answer. An Answer responds to each of the allegations listed in the Complaint. It can also include counterclaims if the defendant disputes the grounds. It is important that an Answer is carefully drafted and served within the amount of time allowed under the statute. A poorly drafted Answer could result in the inadvertent admission of allegations that you may not agree with. In addition, if an Answer is not served on the plaintiff, you could have a default judgment issued against you.
Sometimes a Summons with Notice may be served upon the defendant. In this case, the defendant can respond by serving a Notice of Appearance and a Demand for a Complaint. Once the Complaint is served, the same rules for Answering apply, as above.
The Automatic Orders you received with your papers place restrictions on the parties until the divorce is finalized to ensure that the status quo is maintained. They generally prohibit making any changes to existing insurance policies, removing funds from retirement accounts, selling property, and taking on unreasonable debt. It is mandatory that both parties follow these Orders to avoid contempt of court. If either party does not agree with the automatic orders, they can ask the court permission to modify them, or enter into an agreement with the other party.
If you have been served with divorce papers, or have been considering divorce, The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins can help. The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins understands that every case is unique and takes pride in handling each case with compassion and understanding as well as providing clients with the personalized attention they deserve as they go through one of the most stressful times in their lives. The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins is available to represent clients in New York City- Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Westchester, and Long Island—Nassau and Suffolk counties. Consultations are by appointment only and can be scheduled in Manhattan or Melville, Long Island for the convenience of clients. Call (646) 397-6844 to schedule.
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