Beware The Divorce Complaint With The Ticking “Bomb”

Fox Rothschild LLP

Fox Rothschild LLP

Divorce Complaints come in a variety of ways.  Most lawsuits require delivery by people in patrol cars and uniforms. In the divorce world, things are a bit more “loose.”  Your complaint can come by sheriff, or a constable without uniform, or by another adult.  It can be sent by mail if a return receipt is involved.

The complaint itself is innocuous.  It says that a divorce is sought and specifies if economic claims for alimony, property division, counsel fees and other relief is sought.  But the package may also contains an affidavit of separation.  This sets forth if and when the parties separated.  Separation is a complex topic.  Today people rarely just “walk out.”  However, the affidavit specifies a date and it says you have 20 days to file a pleading if you want to dispute that date.  Otherwise, that date is the date.  It defines how long the divorce may take and what property is marital and what is not.  So you ignore a date of separation affidavit at your peril.  Perhaps you and your spouse started disliking each other in 2016.  Perhaps you stopped having “relations” in 2018.  But, your spouse didn’t actually leave until 2020.  If the affidavit served on you says that you separated in 2016 and you don’t contest that with a court filing within 20 days of service, 2016 will be the date of separation, even if you had a wedding anniversary with 200 guests in 2019, or if your spouse was in a car accident or hit the lottery after 2016.  The recovery on the accident or the ticket will not be marital property.

So if you want to delay conferring with a lawyer, you can do so, but read your mail carefully in the meantime.  There could a be a lot of money at stake.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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