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Steps to Take When Served with Surprise Divorce Papers

Posted on in Divorce

Travis County Family Law AttorneyFor many couples who decide to divorce, the decision to end the marriage is usually a mutual one. While it may be one spouse who finally makes the decision to file, there has usually been some discussions about the dissatisfaction both spouses have with the marriage. However, there are also situations where one spouse files for divorce and the other spouse is completely blindsided by the legal action. In these cases, it is important for the spouse being served to act quickly and obtain legal representation in the event the spouse used the surprise “attack” for malicious reasons, such as hiding marital assets or interfering with a fair custody agreement.

Child Custody

If you and your spouse have children, the surprise divorce filing could also be an attempt to get the upper hand in any child custody decision the court makes, especially if your spouse had already made arrangements to move with the child out of the marital home, with or without your knowledge. The important thing to remember if this happens is that even if your spouse has left with your child, the courts will have the final say in custody issues, regardless of your spouse’s surprise move.

Any decisions the court makes is always based on what is in the best interest of the child. Denying access to your child could actually backfire on your spouse because courts do not approve of these types of tactics. Your attorney will aggressively advocate for you and your child to ensure a fair child custody and parenting time outcome.

Hidden Assets

According to an ongoing, decade-long study by the National Endowment for Financial Education, more than 40 percent of adults who share finances with a spouse or partner admit to financial deceptions in their relationship. A spouse may use a surprise divorce filing to have the advantage of hiding assets in order to prevent the other spouse from getting their fair share of the marital estate in the divorce settlement. Texas is a community property state, meaning that marital estate is distributed in a 50/50 split, but that split is based on the current value of the estate.

If you have been served with divorce papers, it is important to try to find as much documentation regarding assets and property as you can. Make copies of all joint bank statements, brokerage accounts statements, tax returns, property deeds, and any other financial records you can find. Check to make sure that your spouse has not withdrawn funds from any of these accounts or cut off your access to them. If you have a joint safe deposit box, make sure to check that and photograph any contents it contains.

It is also important to take an inventory of all household valuables in order to make sure these are also included in the marital estate. Along with writing down what these items are, also take photographs as proof. It is not uncommon for valuable items to suddenly “go missing.”

Your attorney will advise you on a more extensive list of the things you should document.

Call a Texas High Asset Divorce Lawyer Today

If you have been served with surprise divorce papers, contact a skilled Austin, TX complex divorce attorney right away. Acting quickly is critical. In Texas, a spouse served with a divorce petition is required to answer within 20 to 28 days from the day they were served. Your attorney can also file a motion for a hearing for temporary orders. The court can issue temporary orders on child custody, child support, spousal support, and more. Your attorney can also request a temporary restraining order on all marital assets to prevent your spouse from withdrawing any funds or selling or transferring any property. Contact Powers and Kerr, PLLC at 512-610-6199 to schedule a confidential consultation and find out how we can help.




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