It can be a real shock when a divorce is finally initiated. Maybe you saw it coming but were surprised at the specific timing, or maybe you were caught completely unaware. Either way, it can take some time to process what has happened and to begin mentally preparing yourself for the divorce which has now officially begun.
Unfortunately, once papers have been formally filed, an invisible clock begins to tick and you must take certain steps within specific periods of time or risk possibly losing some of your rights in the divorce action.
What starts the clock ticking?
Many people are confused about what act starts the 'divorce clock' ticking. Is it when you meet with a lawyer for the first time or is it when the Complaint for Divorce is filed with the Court? The answer is "No" on both counts.
The countdown officially begins when the Defendant (the party not filing the action) is served with the Summons and Complaint for Divorce. Once service has been "perfected" against the other party (the papers are properly served according to the service rules found in the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure), the divorce officially begins and timing becomes important from that point forward.
How long do I have to respond once I've been properly served?
Once you receive a Summons and Complaint, you need to act quickly. At this point, you have thirty (30) days to file your responsive pleadings, typically an Answer or an Answer and Counterclaim. The Answer is exactly what it sounds like, as it contains your response to the allegations made in your spouse's Complaint. If you file a Counterclaim, it not only allows you to disagree with any points made by your spouse but also allows you to make claims or requests for relief of your own for the Court's consideration. These are very important documents and must be filed in a timely manner. Any delay could harm your case, which is a very bad way to start a divorce proceeding.
What are the steps I should take if I've been served with divorce papers?
Time is of the utmost importance once divorce papers have been filed. After receiving a Summons and Complaint, it is understandable that you need a chance to process what has happened. However, it is best to take time to think after reaching out to an experienced family law attorney. The sooner you find an attorney to begin working on your behalf, the better. Though you may not personally be prepared to respond, your attorney can start preparing papers and drafting an Answer, leaving you more time to process what has happened. Though it's understandable why someone would wait to hire an attorney, allowing themselves time to process their emotions about the divorce first, this wasted time can prove costly in the long run.
The Stevens Firm, P.A. - Family Law Center has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over two decades, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. We are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us at (864) 598-9172 or by clicking here to schedule your initial consultation.