Named in a Lawsuit?

“A sheriff came to my job and served me with a summons and petition. The summons says a lawsuit has been filed against me and I have to file a response within 20 days or I could lose.”

The spouse who initiates a divorce has probably thought about it for quite some time. They probably consulted a lawyer and put some thought and preparation into their case before taking any formal action to start the divorce.

The other spouse sometimes first learns that the initiating spouse wants a divorce when they get served, more or less as described in the opening of this message. Sometimes, the served spouse is utterly shocked – and panic-stricken. Sometimes, other emotions take over.

Sort of understandable. Getting served is an unpleasant experience. Based on that alone, some spouses leap to the conclusion that the initiating spouse is out for blood.

But that may not be so at all. It’s easy to forget (or never know in the first place) that, like it or not, even an amicable divorce is a type of lawsuit.

Civil (meaning non-criminal) lawsuits must typically be kicked off by service of process by a sheriff or professional process server. And so it is for the typical divorce case.

Now, there is more than one strategy for dispensing with the unpleasantness of service. And there are also ways to soften the shock of being served.

That can be good to know, for some cases. But whether one of the alternatives is appropriate in any particular case is really a tactical decision. The answer depends on the personalities of the spouses and how they deal with things and each other.