What Happens When I Get Served Divorce Papers?


By Marvin Mendez, Divorce and Family Law Attorney, Principal

Getting served divorce papers can be a daunting and emotional experience—especially if you don’t know they’re coming. In an Illinois divorce, if you aren’t expecting to be served, an attorney will reach out via email to serve you papers. If you don’t respond, then you’ll be served in person.

Once you’ve been served, you need to find the right lawyer and file an appearance within a certain timeframe. However, before taking that step, I recommend giving yourself time to process the situation, so you can react and move forward in the best way possible for you and your family.

What’s my first step after I get served?

There are ways to navigate getting served—I suggest starting by taking time to digest what has happened and to understand your feelings. Reach out to trusted loved ones who can help you process your situation and who may even be able to recommend an attorney. If you have family or friends who have gone through a divorce, they may be able to offer valuable insight based on their own experiences.

If you’re scared or embarrassed to speak to a friend or family member, you’re not alone—those are valid feelings. It’s okay to process privately for a few days.

When you’re ready, the next step in the process is to find an attorney—ideally one to whom you feel connected and who can provide logical emotional support.

How do I find the right attorney?

Finding a divorce lawyer can be overwhelming. If you don’t have any recommendations from family or friends, you can begin your search for attorneys who practice near your home. Look at their websites and read reviews to narrow down your search to someone you think fits your style. You can then call their office and set up a consultation to ensure they’re a good match.

Preparing for your first meeting and familiarizing yourself with the process ahead of time can help you have a more comfortable experience. But remember, your lawyer is there to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and get clarity every step of the way.

Once I have been served divorce papers, how quickly do I need to act?

Once you have been served divorce papers, you have 30 days to file your appearance with the attorney of your choice. While that may not seem like a long time, I want to reiterate the importance of taking a few days to give your feelings the time they deserve before acting.

Once your spouse files for divorce, nothing can stop the proceedings—so reacting in a calm manner is the best thing you can do for yourself and your future. If you do not act within the first 30 days, your spouse can seek a default against you.

What if I do not have money to pay for an attorney?

We understand that divorce can be a financial burden. If you do not have money to pay for an attorney, there are options.

If your spouse cut you off financially, you may seek relief with the court by filing the proper petition to maintain the status quo.

If you do not have immediate access to money, you can use a credit card or ask a loved one to help. But remember to get a promissory note—a written contract that states your obligation to pay attorney fees at a later time. After all, this should be considered marital debt. Whichever avenue is right for you, make sure you find a lawyer within 30 days.

Contact Our Divorce and Family Law Firm in Evanston, Chicago, Lake Forest and Oak Brook

You deserve an attorney who understands that each divorce is unique and requires compassionate, thorough attention. During what can be a time of instability, we provide dependable, consistent support and work together with you toward the best resolutions.

If you have been served divorce papers and need of a lawyer, we would be honored to help you. Please request a free consultation or call us at (847) 868-9584.

Take the Next Steps

For a free consultation, call Stern Perkoski Mendez at (847) 868-9584 or contact us.