Spanish and Arabic translation available | 

What Should I Do if I Was Served Divorce Papers in New Jersey?

In many divorce matters, both people can feel the divorce is coming. However, in other instances, one person may have no idea the other party wants a divorce. But in almost every scenario, actually being served with divorce papers comes as a surprise, if not a shock. In New Jersey, to start divorce proceedings your lawyer must schedule your divorce complaint and file it with the court before divorce papers can be served so there is proof that one spouse is suing the other spouse for divorce.

Being ‘served with divorce papers’ essentially means that an official court document, known as a Summons and Complaint for Divorce, is delivered to you, declaring that your spouse is suing you for divorce and setting forth what your spouse wants in the divorce. Officially called a Summons and a Complaint for Divorce, this summons says the court has the power to hear and decide the case.

Under New Jersey law, the defendant must be personally served and hand-delivered a copy of the divorce paperwork, or you may agree to for the divorce papers to be served to you through an attorney. To learn more, reach out to our firm today to speak with our dedicated Morris County NJ divorce lawyers.

What steps should I take after being served with divorce papers?

1. Read the Papers

A divorce summons demands that you answer to the court within a certain time period. Most states also require that you serve your spouse with a copy of your response. If you neglect the divorce summons and miss the deadline, the court may take this as a sign that you will not challenge the divorce and that you agree to all terms in the summons. The divorce can then be awarded to your spouse by default, including all the conditions and terms they requested.

You will want to consider the answer deadline a serious deadline. In New Jersey, you have 35 days after being served with the divorce complaint to file a response or a default judgment will be decided by the court.

2. Seek Support

Telling close family and friends about your divorce, not putting it on social media, can provide the support you need, in addition to referrals for divorce counselors, child psychologists, attorneys, financial advisors, and other resources and support you might need to help enter this process.

3. Consult An Attorney

If you have been served with divorce papers, you are not alone. Some couples choose to call off their divorce, others battle it out in court, and others decide to arrange a divorce that works for them and their family. Consulting a skilled attorney will help you recognize your options, including the following:

  • the kind of divorce you want
  • the costs of hiring an attorney and divorce litigation
  • alternative options and resources

What should I not do after being served?

Our firm understands the emotions involved when receiving divorce papers. Ignoring the divorce summons or starting a war with your spouse will not be beneficial. Divorce can be stressful, heartbreaking, and expensive. If children are concerned, you want them to be protected each step of the way, no matter what the outcome is to make sure that child custody and child support agreement are in their best interests.


If you need an experienced legal team to guide you through your divorce, contact Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark L.L.C today.