During your divorce or child custody case, you will have many different legal deadlines to keep in mind. You will need to respond to any documents you receive in a timely manner, and if you do not, it’s very possible that the case will go on without your input. In addition, a judge will likely not look kindly upon one party not responding in time or acting in a disorganized way. If you are having trouble keeping track of your legal deadlines, here are some tips to keep you on track.
Write Down Legal Deadlines Immediately
If you are dealing with a divorce or child custody case, it’s likely that you have a lot on your mind. Still, that’s no reason to let dates get away from you when it comes to keeping track of your legal deadlines. As soon as you open a piece of mail, write down the date by which a response is due. In most cases, you will have a few weeks to get your information together; sometimes it will be sooner.
It can help to get into the habit of handling a piece of mail only once before filing it or acting upon it. Rather than piling letters on a desk or putting them into a file without opening them, open them right away and make note of the dates and what you need to submit, if anything. Then you can file it in your inbox or, if it’s only for informational purposes, in a file that you are keeping for your case.
Contact the Court If a Date Isn’t Doable
It’s possible that an occasional piece of mail will be lost or that you were traveling when it arrived and for a week or two afterward. If you cannot meet legal deadlines, call the clerk of the court immediately to explain your situation. They might or might not grant an extension, but not saying anything and ignoring a deadline will definitely not work out in your favor.
Use the Right Type of Calendar
If you have a hard time keeping your dates and papers organized, you might be using the wrong type of calendar. Some people prefer a paper calendar and others prefer an electronic, or digital, calendar. Here are the pros and cons of both types so you can determine what would work best for you.
Paper calendars: If you prefer not to use a lot of technology, a paper calendar is as low-tech as it can get. Hang it on your refrigerator, on your bathroom mirror, or anywhere else you will see it often. You can use post-it notes to jot down notes that you think of when you’re not within an arm’s reach of the calendar; just stick the notes to the appropriate page. The cons of a paper calendar are that they’re not easily searchable, you can’t program them to give you reminders, and if you lose the calendar or spill coffee on it, you will lose the information on it, as well.
Digital calendars: If you are able to access your digital calendar on your phone, it will probably always be with you, literally at your fingertips. A digital calendar or a scheduling app can be programmed to send you reminders when important dates are coming up. You can also add to it at any moment; simply take out your phone and type in whatever is coming up. Finally, you can usually search a digital calendar by typing in a word or two, so you can eliminate scrolling through to find what you are looking for. The cons of a digital calendar include being hard to use for someone who is not technologically savvy and not having as visual a reminder as you would with a paper calendar.
Set an Earlier Deadline for Yourself
If you tend to procrastinate, one way to overcome this tendency and meet your legal deadlines is to set earlier deadlines for yourself. If, for example, you need to have your financial statements in by August 15, you can mark on your calendar the date of August 10 as your due date. This will inspire you to get your paperwork together early, and if there is a problem, you’ll have five days to solve it.
Another way you can set earlier deadlines for yourself is by breaking up your tasks into smaller pieces. Answering a summons might include many different documents. Make it a goal to work on one document every three days or whatever it will take to get all of it together by the legal deadlines.
Defeat Stress That Is Leading to Problems
Sometimes, people put aside items that are too stressful. It’s common to feel stressed and overwhelmed when it comes to going through a divorce and custody case. You might be hurt and disappointed that you are in this situation in the first place. You might be fearful that you will lose custody of your children or that you will not be able to afford to pay child support. Dealing with the stress to make it all less anxiety-provoking can help you stick to your legal deadlines and get your paperwork done.
Ask a trusted friend or family member to help you if you feel overwhelmed. You can also try some relaxation techniques like deep breathing or guided imagery. Seeking counseling can also help you stay on a more even keel and more likely to get your documents in order on time. Take care of your mental health so you can rebuild your life after your divorce is finalized.
Get a Good Legal Advocate
Finally, don’t hesitate to get a good legal advocate on your side. Paying for a private attorney is one option, albeit an expensive one. If that isn’t what you want to (or what you can) do, consider utilizing the services of a legal resource group like National Family Solutions. The group can keep track of legal deadlines, submit documents, and otherwise make the entire process of getting a divorce or pursuing custody less stressful.