So, you’re at home one day, minding your own business, maybe watching some Downton Abbey. You hear a knock at the door, so you answer it. There you find a nice man holding some papers.

The nice man extends his hand and says, “You’ve been served.”

And so it is. You have been served. Now what happens?

Your first option is to do nothing. Yeah, this is a bad idea. In Utah, once you’ve been served with divorce or child custody pleadings, you have twenty-one days to respond (thirty if you were served outside Utah). If you don’t respond by filing an Answer, then you default.

In case you were wondering, defaulting is bad. Bad like you lose and the other person gets everything he or she asked for bad. Don’t default.

Your second option is to respond within twenty-one days by filing an Answer. An Answer ensures you will not default. It does not, however, tell the Court what you want. To do that you will need to file an Answer & Counter-Claim.

Your third option is to contact the other person, or the other person’s attorney and negotiate. If you do this alone, you might as well default. I have seen countless people try to negotiate with a divorce attorney, only to sign essentially what the attorney filed in the first place.

If you do not hire an attorney, please request mediation. At least in mediation there’s a third-party there who can provide you with a little bit of guidance.

If I were you, I’d take the papers that nice man served, go to a Utah divorce or family law attorney, and get some representation. Nothing is more valuable to you and your family than a good attorney.

And remember: you only have twenty-one days to choose option 1, 2, or 3. Choose wisely.

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