Family Law – What to Do If You’ve Been Served
Being served is an uncomfortable experience. Depending on what state you live in, you will immediately be under some time constraints and you will need to take some action. The following are some basics that can get you started.
1) Take a deep breath.
Having someone unexpectedly show up at your home or worse your place of employment, hand you some documents, and say “you’ve been served” is simultaneously upsetting and embarrassing. Depending on your personality, your first reaction may be to lash out, cry, laugh, or lock yourself in a room. The latter may be the best option, because you do not want to react on emotion and do something you will regret. Stop and take a deep breath. Everything you do from this point forward could have consequences in the case that has been filed against you.
2) Assess the situation.
Immediately go to a quiet place where you can thoroughly review what the process server handed to you. If you cannot do this immediately, then do it as soon as possible. There may be upcoming court dates you need to be aware of, and everything contained in the documents will provide important information to you. Make mental notes of the allegations contained in the complaint – remember they are only allegations at this point. Think about why they were made and whether any of them are true.
3) Do NOT talk to anyone yet.
You will want to tell someone what has occurred. You have close friends and family members with whom you regularly confide information about your life. Resist the urge to talk to anyone at this point. For one thing, they may not want to be involved at all. But more importantly, in speaking to them about the facts of the case may instantly make them a material witness. If they are called to testify, they can tell the court what you said to them. This falls under an exception to the hearsay rule, allowing testimony pertaining to party admissions.
4) Consult an attorney.
The exception to point 3 is an attorney. Do some research and find a knowledgeable family law attorney quickly. A family law attorney will be well-versed in the law, the court system, any local intricacies, and will know how to protect you. Additionally, the lawyer will be bound by the attorney-client privilege. It is imperative that you find an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
5) Create a plan.
You will need to respond in some fashion to the lawsuit that has been filed against you. Work with your attorney and figure out what that response is going to be.