Many times, a divorce or child custody case is the first time that an individual is dealing with the court system. There is a whole new language to learn and a new set of rules. In addition to having to handle your emotions and the day-to-day task of managing your finances on your own and learning how to co-parent, you also have to take into consideration what’s going on with your case. At National Family Solutions, we are here to help. Here are some frequently asked questions about being served and court orders pertaining to divorce and child custody.
“I’ve just been served. What do I do now?”
Whether or not you were expecting to be served, you might be in a state of shock and sadness when you receive your packet of papers. This is completely understandable and common, even if you knew it was coming. The first thing you should do when receiving your divorce or child custody papers is to look through them and make note of the date by which you must respond. Usually, this is about three weeks into the future, though it will vary a bit from state to state. If you cannot find a date on your papers, contact the clerk of the court in your county and they will help you.
Your response might be simply filing an appearance, which means that you are telling the court that you wish to be involved in the proceedings. In some cases, you might need to file an answer, which is a response to the divorce or child custody complaint. Depending on your situation, you might even file a counterclaim.
Securing a legal advocacy team like National Family Solutions will give you a head start in deciding how to answer these documents, so consider doing that right away.
“What court orders might I expect to get during my divorce or child custody case?”
There are many different types of court orders, but in a divorce or custody case, they fall under temporary, or interim orders and final orders (which are usually part of the divorce decree).
The temporary orders are issued during the divorce case itself. For example, a judge might need to decide for you which spouse gets to live in the house, what the visitation schedule will be, and who will be financially responsible for various obligations. These are only applicable to the case before its final. While some or all of them might become the permanent orders, at this point, they’re only temporary.
The final orders will come with the divorce decree. While these can be modified in some cases, they are considered to be final unless there is some strong reason for changing them. This is when the final decisions pertaining to custody the house are made.
“How can I modify a court order?”
Sometimes after a divorce is final, both ex-spouses will want to modify the terms. For example, if you were getting your child every other weekend and on Tuesday nights but now your work schedule has changed and you have to work every Sunday, your child’s other parent might agree that now you can have your child every Tuesday and Wednesday nights. If you both agree, you do not need to go back before the judge. Instead, you can write out stipulation form, submit it to the court, and have it approved.
If, however, the two of you do not agree on something and you cannot come to an agreement, you can file a motion to ask the judge to change the orders. For example, maybe you need to move to a town 30 minutes away and your child’s other parent does not think that you should still be able to have overnight visitation on school nights. They might file a motion to ask that the judge change the court orders granting you an overnight during the week. You can, in turn, file an opposition form stating that you will handle the transportation to school so it should not affect visitation.
From there, both of you will have to attend the hearing that is scheduled so a judge can hear both cases and make the decision to change the court orders or to leave it as-is.
At National Family Solutions, we deal with cases like this every day. We help people just like you who don’t know what to do when they receive divorce papers, who aren’t sure how to represent themselves in court, and who don’t know where to turn when they need to have a court orders modified. We help mothers and fathers who just want the best for their children and need to work with the court system to ensure that it happens. We can help you navigate your divorce and child custody case.