Being served with papers telling you that your spouse wants a divorce, that there is a child custody or paternity case, or some other legal issue. Being sued is a stressful situation, even if you knew it was coming. While every situation is different and you should contact a legal resource group for help, there are a few things you can do (and a few things you shouldn’t do) no matter what the specific circumstances are. Read on to find out how to respond to being served and what questions you can ask your legal advisor.
Don’t Avoid the Server
The person serving you is just trying to do his or her job. Avoiding them by refusing to answer the door or running from your car to your home is not going to make the issue go away. Depending on the situation, it could even mean that the matter will be settled in the other person’s favor. Instead, open the door, sign the forms, and accept the paperwork. You’ll be making your own life, as well as the server’s life, a lot easier. Running is not the way to respond to being served.
Note the Date to Respond to Being Served
There will be a date by which you must respond if you don’t want the case to be decided against you by default. Mark the date on your calendar and set a reminder on your phone. If that date passes, you might find that your wages are being garnished or your bank account has been attached. If you want to speak to your legal resource group, do it as soon as you get served so you have plenty of time to respond to being served.
Understand Your Options
You will likely have several options to choose from when it comes to responding to how you respond to being served. Again, your legal advocacy group will be able to help you decide what you want to do. You can talk to the person who had you served to find out if you can settle the matter out of court. Be aware that any verbal agreement does not negate the date on your paperwork! Your settlement must take place before the date.
You can also simply file an answer. This lets the court know that you are going to defend yourself. If anything on the summons isn’t true, this is your opportunity to add or correct the facts.
Checking your summons carefully will tell you if you have the option to ask for the motion to be dismissed. If, for example, you’ve been summoned by a court that has no jurisdiction over you or if there is no case stated, you might be able to have it dismissed. Speak to your legal advisor about this option.
You can also ignore it instead of electing to respond to being served, but that means that the person suing you can just ask for the default judgment.
Find Out What Your Answer Should Be
If you’ve decided to answer the summons, you might need to attach certain forms or fill in certain facts. This is where your legal advocacy group comes in. Depending on the situation, there are many answers that could be correct, so seek advice about what you need to include when you respond to being served.
File and Send the Plaintiff a Copy
When you file your answer with the court, you will need to also send along a copy to the person who had you served. You can give or mail it directly to them, but if there is an attorney representing them, you should send it there instead.
Take the Next Steps
You need to know what to expect. The court or your legal advisor can help you. You might have a hearing date; if this is the case, write it down and make sure you don’t forget. You’ll want to take the steps needed to represent yourself well in court. Decide on what you should wear and whether you need to modify your appearance to show proper decorum and respect to the court.
If how you respond to being served included a claim against the person suing you, you will likely need to wait to get the plaintiff’s response before getting your hearing date.
After the hearing, you’ll know whether the case will proceed or if it has been dismissed. From there, you’ll take the next steps as needed. Your family law assistance group will be an invaluable resource as the case moves along. They can help you if you want to try to settle your case or if you need to represent yourself during a trial.
Being served is stressful and overwhelming, but know that there is a step-by-step process that will get you through the hearing and trial processes if it comes to that. Depend on your legal advocates to help you find the resources you need to get through this situation.