So You've Been Served! (in a family lawsuit)
You open the door and are greeted by a constable/stranger. Their first question ‘are you _____?' And as soon as you answer, “yes,” you are handed a bunch of papers, and you hear the words, ‘You have been served'.
Though it may unfold differently in your case, it is often very like the above. It could be at your work, your home, or some other public place, but now you are faced with a very real problem: you have been served with a lawsuit or legal paperwork. What do you do?
First—read the paperwork. Cover to cover, start to finish, and slowly. You can make sense of most of it. But you are likely faced with verbiage that could be foreign to you: citation, original petition, temporary restraining order, precept, and the like. Still, read through what is there, and write all your questions. Then read it again, and continue to write down your questions—and hopefully tentative answers to some of them. Note especially any deadlines, which may include a hearing date. Also, if there is a temporary restraining order (‘TRO'), you are required to follow it—read those sections especially carefully to insure you are keeping the terms of the TRO. The one thing you shouldn't do: ignore the paperwork. You could have a default judgment taken against you if you choose to do so.
Second—find an attorney to answer your questions. Most attorneys will answer all your questions-and probably a few more you haven't thought of-as part of an initial consultation. I suggest calling my office to set this up as soon as practical after you've been served. My aim in that initial meeting is to answer questions, map out a game plan and hopefully set my client's heart and mind at ease, as much as can be done in a volatile situation. I charge $200 for that initial one-hour consult, in my opinion, a good value.
Third—if you choose not to see or hire an attorney, be certain that, at minimum, you file an answer before the deadline. When you hire an attorney, he/she will do this for you, as part of the representation, but it has to be done. If no answer is filed, you can lose your case before you have an opportunity to tell your side of things.
If you have been served, please contact me to set an appointment to discuss your situation. I am ready to help.
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