Tonight’s post, “If you are in a divorce, you are being sued,” was written by one of Marietta’s finest family law attorneys, Darrin Keaton.
Many people who have been served (or have acknowledged service) in a contested divorce will tell you they have never been sued before. But what they don’t realize is this: if you have been served with a complaint, you have been sued. Most individuals understand on a basic level what will happen if they are sued for money damages and ignore the lawsuit, or try to handle the case on their own. They will usually end up with a judgment against them.
For those who try to proceed without an attorney, the procedural requirements alone impose pitfalls the average litigant would have trouble avoiding. In this situation, the practical advice would be to get an attorney to protect your legal and personal interests.
As with other legal actions, all divorce lawsuits must be served with a “Summons” issued by the Clerk that advises the defendant of their duty to respond. The language is often read, but many times not heeded. A summons that accompanies a complaint will read substantially as follows:
“You are hereby summoned and required to file with the Clerk of said court and serve upon the Plaintiff’s attorney whose name and address is:
55 Main St
an answer to the complaint which is herewith served upon you, within thirty (30) days after service of summon upon you, exclusive of the day of service. If you fail to do so, judgment by default will be taken against you for the relief demanded in the complaint.”
So why do people involved in divorce cases attempt to litigate their matters without an attorney? I often tell people in my consultations, “You are being sued, do not overlook this fact just because it’s a divorce.” Some might say a family law proceeding is even more complicated than a standard lawsuit due to the relationships between the parties, the involvement of children and the economic devastation that can occur. I would agree.
If you have been sued for divorce, you need to treat this as serious as if you were being sued by the IRS, even though the opposing party is someone you have trusted and confided in for years. Do not wait until day 29 to seek the advice and counsel of an attorney.
And when you do look for an attorney, seek the advice of an attorney who practices family law. You would never consult with a podiatrist about your heart condition or get singing lessons from a painter. While the podiatrist is a doctor and the painter is an artist, they cannot provide you with the specialized expertise you would need. I recently had a consultation in Marietta with a potential client whose divorce case was in shambles. This person had been getting advice from a family friend who was an attorney…a patent attorney!
Divorce can be a difficult and unpleasant journey, but it can be made much more unpleasant (and costly) without an attorney experienced in family law to guide you through.