What should you do if you've been served with divorce papers in a South Carolina family law case? It can be a confusing and understandably upsetting event, especially if you were caught unaware. Though this is bound to be an emotional time, there are some concrete, important steps you should take to begin to respond to the divorce filing.
First, you should make note of when you received the divorce papers. The date that the papers are officially delivered to you is very important, and it will come into play later when determining the deadlines to file responsive documents with the court. Waiting too long to respond or missing key deadlines can seriously harm your case, sometimes even forfeiting your legal rights.
The second thing you should do is read through the paperwork that you received. Take a deep breath and try to absorb the information contained in the documents. Make note of what things you agree or disagree with, and begin making of list of all of the information (including documents, witness statements, photographs, financial records, etc.) that might be used to disprove their allegations.
Next, you should look to see if there is a Motion for Temporary Relief (or other Motion) attached to the Summons and Complaint. In most South Carolina divorce cases, the Plaintiff's attorney will ask for a temporary hearing to have the court decide certain important issues, such as child custody, visitation, support, alimony, etc. Be sure to find out if such a hearing has been requested, as they usually have very tight deadlines and require immediate action on your part.
The final, and arguably most important thing you should do is schedule a consultation as soon as possible with an experienced South Carolina family law attorney. Choose someone with knowledge of the South Carolina divorce process, so that you can rely on your attorney's expertise during the complicated process. Ben Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and he has been a highly skilled litigator handling complicated and complex divorce and child custody cases in Spartanburg, Greenville, York, Anderson, and other counties all across our state.
Once you've found the right attorney, he or she will begin the process of drafting a formal response to the divorce Complaint, known as an Answer, which will admit or deny each of the allegations made against you. Your attorney may also file a Counterclaim at the same time, which will list all of the relief that you wish to pursue in the case. Your Answer must be filed within 30 days of the date that you were served, which is further evidence that timing is important.