First – take a deep breath.
Yes, it’s upsetting to be served with legal papers. The best divorce or legal separation is going to be difficult and painful. The truth is that there is no way to avoid the emotional hurt that the end of a relationship causes. This is a hurdle like many others that you have already faced in your life. Now it is time to get information and move forward.
Second – you have time to make decisions.
Do not panic. Definitely do not take any immediate action you will later regret. Avoid threats, ugly voicemail or text messages, and withholding the children from the other parent. The papers you were served tell you of your rights and give you information. There is also information about when you must respond. Read the documents carefully until you understand them. It’s fine to underline them, highlight them and to put sticky notes on them. If you do not understand them, and even if you do, it may be time to consider getting some legal advice.
Third – consider your next steps
Take time to determine your next step but do not delay for too long. Ask yourself, “What do I have to do?” Then check what the documents told you to do. Have you been ordered to appear for an Initial Status Conference? This is likely your first court date. Put it on your calendar and be sure to show up. Are there other timeframes in any of the documents specifying when you should complete certain tasks? Look for when you must exchange information and complete a sworn financial statement. Is there a deadline for attending a parenting class? Are there terms you don’t understand? Take your time and go through the papers to figure out the alphabet soup. It should all be there if you take your time.
Now get moving
It’s likely that you were provided with a document that gave you the state court website which is www.courts.state.co.us. It might be a good idea to take a spin through it. Familiarize yourself with it and see if you’re comfortable with navigating the site. The forms and site can be a little intimidating the first time. Come back a couple of times.
Now may be a good time to sit down with family members or friends for moral support. Consider whether consulting with an attorney is a good idea. You may not need to hire one for your matter. However talking to an attorney to get a solid sense of your rights, what you can expect, and an interpretation based on the specific facts of your case is likely a good investment. Be a good consumer of legal services. You might review our blog article on choosing an attorney or on assisted self-representation.
Tips for the long haul – get organized and use your resources
From the outset, remain organized. It’s worth the investment in a three-ring binder or a flash drive to keep all your documents organized.
Pay close attention to dates. If you plan to represent yourself, become familiar with the rules of procedure, particularly C.R.C.P. 16.2. You will be held to the same standards whether you hire an attorney or represent yourself. You might benefit from our blog article on community resources.
Finally – remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
Realize that like any new endeavor this process can be approached in small bites. It can be handled with the help of family, friends, a good attorney, and possibly an able therapist. Most importantly it does not have to consume you. Even the best divorce or legal separation is life changing. It does not begin or end with the service