A common misunderstanding among those going through a divorce, or about to, is that being a defendant in divorce proceedings somehow equates to guilt, but that is a falsehood. Almost every divorce attorney for women will explain that being a defendant does not relate to wrongdoing; it only implies who filed first. Therefore, while a criminal proceeding places the defense in a position of accusation, in a divorce, or other civil action, the defendant is merely the person who received the summons, and the plaintiff is the person who filed. Consequently, as the receiver, there are at least five things you should know about being a defendant in a Michigan divorce proceeding.
Accepting the Documents
You cannot stop a divorce from happening. Regardless of how you feel about the matter, avoiding the divorce papers only delays the inevitable, especially in Michigan. While the court will make every attempt to contact you, within reason, avoidance and failure to accept the initial documents will only weaken your side of the argument, leaving the court no choice but to take your spouse’s word in the original complaint, including on the division of marital assets and custody.
Understanding What You Sign
There is nothing to fear in the initial paperwork that you are served either in-person or by mail. The most common documents will include a summons and complaint. The summons specify the timeline for court proceedings and the deadline for your response. The complaint is your spouse’s explanation of the marriage, their reason for divorce, and how they want the marriage resolved. Beyond these initial documents, you might see some other paperwork that you might want to discuss with your attorney.
- Ex parte orders
- Motions for temporary orders
- Verified statement
- Case inventory addendum
- Friend of the court handbook
Making a Decision
In responding to the initial summons and compliant, any divorce lawyer for women will advise you to take your time and consider your options. Remember, however, that doing nothing means the proceedings move forward without you, which might result in a Default Judgment of Divorce. This judgment might be OK if you have limited marital assets or concerns. However, if you have children, property or financial matters, then it is strongly recommended you participate.
Knowing the Deadlines
A divorce proceeding is, if nothing else, a bureaucratic process where paperwork and deadlines matter. Therefore, you must file a response to the initial divorce complaint promptly, typically in 21 days, if the papers were delivered in-person, or 28 days, if received by mail. Also, know that you do not have to accept your spouse’s conditions. You can file a counterclaim, also asking for the divorce but stating your terms. A counterclaim is filed with your response.
While divorces can be civil engagements, it is always recommended to at least consider hiring a lawyer. Attorneys are especially necessary when divorces cover complex matters and involve large marital estates or significant assets. Therefore, if you have children with your spouse or have shared financial holdings, then get a lawyer. Also, if the marriage involved an abusive spouse, then legal representation is urged. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your spouse’s attorney is looking out for your interest. They do not represent you. Find your own lawyer. If you cannot afford an attorney, then you might be able to qualify for free representation.
Divorce is a challenging and upsetting process for many reasons. However, don’t let anxiety and confused emotions make you feel guilty of anything. Find a support system and legal counsel to help you through. The Law Firm of Victoria is a women’s family law firm in Michigan, and they are ready to hear from you. Call (248) 780-1775 for a free 30-minute phone consultation.