In every divorce there comes the time when your spouse gets served the official divorce papers called the Divorce Petition. For your spouse, this is the moment the divorce becomes real. In my experience this always comes as a total shock to the soon to be ex-spouse, especially when they read the terms.
Because all divorce petitions ask for everything but the kitchen sink. The legal rule is: if you don’t ask for it in the petition you cannot get it later!
Ok … So they received the petition, and they just contacted you…
… And they are angry. What should you do?
Divorces are hard, and spouses always react poorly to being served. We frequently have clients reach out to us during this time wanting advice on what to do, so much so that I decided to write a quick blog post. So let’s discuss it.
Clients will send me screen shots of their spouse’s nasty texts to them, or describe how their spouse is reacting… and its ugly.
Of course they are mad and it was expected. Hang in there
Maybe you and your spouse were talking and trying to negotiate some kind of settlement. But it wasn’t going anywhere and you needed to just pull the trigger.
Good for you.
Now they HAVE to answer within 20 days, and by submitting this petition, something is going to get moving in your situation. My advice, stay the course, don’t fray.
Commonly, we have seen the spouse ask you to do one of the following:
Retract the petition
Come to an “agreement”
Go to mediation without attorneys
At this point it’s your spouse’s last ditch effort to keep control over the situation, and they’re scared, because you have now gained leverage over them with an aggressive list of demands.
1. Why retracting the Petition is the wrong choice:
The Petition is your only vehicle to get before the Judge, so retracting it does you no good. The Petition for Divorce is how we inform the Court what our issues are that need to be resolved.
2. Agreeing on your own wasn’t working:
Imagine this: you went through multiple attempts to agree, and back and forth with terms and endless discussions to settle and it all FAILED, then what? You’re back to having to file a Petition for Divorce or a Petition to Establish Paternity.
Think about it: you’re divorcing them for a reason, I’m willing to bet part of that reason is that you and s/he don’t get along, and there are a number of things you don’t agree on. After all, that’s why you’re here, and why you called me and made sure we preserve your rights, and give you the chance to be heard before a Judge when the time comes.
3. You’re going to mediation anyway:
Once they get past the initial shock, and provide an answer and mandatory disclosures you can move on to the next step of the process…Mediation. The good news is that in Florida Divorces, and Florida Paternity Actions, all cases MUST go to mediation. Mediation is where they will have their chance to come to an amicable agreement with you. But going without an attorney is ill advised. Your attorney keeps you informed of your legal rights and also the ramifications of what you may agree to. Let’s you know what has a reasonable chance of winning in court should you not agree on an issue. And most importantly your attorney is a third party advocate fighting on your behalf, what you agree to at mediation is permanent.
Lastly, one thing I will mention is that much of what your spouse is saying is because they are angry. They may call you names, they may call me names, and make other various threats about taking you to court. You should choose to ignore it completely. The only thing that you should take seriously is what they put on paper and file with the court, and any threats of violence (contact me or your attorney immediately about that, and do not hesitate to get an injunction in that circumstance!)
One last thing that is important to remember: this is one of the hardest things they have ever had to go through. Who they truly are, what kind of human, and what kind of parent they may be is not accurately reflected on their worst day ever. Try (as I do) not to judge them based on this reaction. You’re in a better position not to react this way because if you hire me, you have me in your corner advocating for you, and in many ways advocating against them. So let them vent, ignore it, block them from your phone for a week or so until they cool down.
Remember, you don’t deserve to be berated and treated in this way, but that’s why we started all of this, isn’t it? So don’t let their frustration give you fear, stay strong while this is going on and know you’re doing what’s best to get to the other side of this situation.
If you have questions, or need advice, contact me in Orlando, Florida today. I’m here for you. Call now to schedule your consultation with me, Attorney Erin Morse.