In the last couple of weeks I have talked to several individuals who received legal papers, but took no action to address them. In this blog article I would like to talk about some things a person may want to do should this happen to them.
For most people, when they thing of “getting some papers” it involves getting served with papers, by the other spouse, in a divorce or legal separation. And by “getting served” we mean having the papers handed to them. While this is very common, there are other ways you might get legal papers. Depending on the type of case, and who is starting the case, you might get legal papers mailed to you. This might include a motion to address some post divorce issue (say an adjustment of child support in a hearing) or a hearing to address an administrative determination of child support involving the Division of Child Support. It is not unheard of to get papers “incorrectly” – this might include papers not mailed to you (but involves you or one of your children) but somehow you end up with them. While there are all sorts of ways that any papers, proposed orders, letters, etc. might end up in your hands, the important thing to remember is that you treat all documents the same – very seriously.
Failing to address any, and all, documents, can lead to big problems in short order, or later. In some very narrow situations you can undo the mess you get yourself in, by not addressing the paperwork, but many times you cannot undo it. I can tell you, based on experience, it is not a good idea to ignore any kind of paperwork and expect that you will be able to “fix things” later. I suspect most people that do ignore paperwork do so because they either do not know what to do, or do not believe it applies to them. Both of these issues can be addressed at the same time – take the paperwork to a knowledgeable family law attorney and get an opinion. With the right set of eyes looking over the paperwork you will learn several things. Does the paperwork apply to you? And, most importantly, what should you do next? A good attorney will also advise you on what might happen should you ignore the paperwork – generally not good.
Getting someone, with knowledge and experience, is the most important take away from this blog article. And to do some in a timely fashion – this generally means as soon as possible. Sometimes I will get a telephone call, from a prospective client, asking me to “explain” a certain document to them. While I may be able to give them some assistance, over the phone, to really give a good answer to the questions they will have – does it apply to me? – what do I do next? – I would need an office meeting to go over the document in detail. There is also a good chance that other documents would need to be reviewed as well. As an example, if the paperwork involves a current parenting plan or child support order, I would want to see the current version of those documents as well (another good reason to make sure you keep a paper copy of all current court orders in your case).
This blog article is not intended to convey legal advice, but only address some of the general rules. Most legal issues, in family law cases, depend on the specific facts. Should you wish to discuss your particular situation with the Law Office of Thomas A. Chillquist, please call or email my office. I am a family law lawyer (divorce attorney) and I represent parties in family law, and divorce, matters in King and Pierce County, Washington, including Kent, Federal Way, Covington, Renton, SeaTac, Des Moines, Fife, Auburn, Seattle, Bellevue, Puyallup, Orting, Tacoma and Mercer Island. Copyright Thomas A. Chillquist