YOU GOT SERVED!! What does it mean to be “served” according to Georgia law and what do you do if you are served with process?
Every civil lawsuit (including domestic relations cases such as divorce and child support modification) requires what is called service of process. The purpose of service is of course, to notify the person being sued, also known as the “Defendant” or “Respondent,” that a lawsuit has been filed against him or her and that some response or defense is necessary to protect his or her legal rights. This right to notice is known as “constitutional due process” or “due process of law.”
In order to obtain personal jurisdiction over a Defendant, the lawsuit must be personally served on the Defendant by a sheriff’s deputy or a qualified process server. In cases that are not contested or where the Defendant is made aware that a lawsuit is pending, the Defendant may choose to sign an acknowledgment of service forgoing the potential embarrassment or humiliation of being served by an official looking “process server” or sheriff’s deputy.
What to Do After Being Served with Divorce Papers
Once a Defendant is served with the lawsuit, he or she should seek legal counsel immediately to ensure that a proper responsive pleading is filed. Georgia law specifically provides that a party that fails to file a responsive pleading after service is deemed to waive his/her right to all future notices, including notices of time and place of trial and entry of judgment. In plain language, if you do not file a responsive pleading the other party will go to the judge and get whatever relief they are requesting, whether they are entitled to it or not. Once a judgment is entered, it can be difficult to get it set aside, even if it is unfair or blatantly factually incorrect.
It is extremely important to retain or at least consult with an attorney if you are served with legal papers. In most cases if you are served with a lawsuit, whether the suit involves divorce, money damages, injunctive relief, pain and suffering, or any other claim under the law, the clock starts ticking on the date of service and you have a limited time, usually thirty (30) days, to take the appropriate response. While it may seem expensive, intimidating, or inconvenient to seek legal advice or representation just because another individual has decided to file a lawsuit against you, it is important to recognize that failing to properly respond could have a significant negative effect on your life (a judgment for damages, child support, child custody, etc.). Further, even after you are served it is important to take appropriate action to make sure that all other parties to the lawsuit are notified of your defenses and to make sure that you receive notification of all future court proceedings.
Contact Our Atlanta Family Law Attorneys Today
You don’t need to go through the divorce process alone. Our team of experienced divorce attorneys at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor will help you discuss your case, understand the Georgia divorce process, your options and rights, and help you through this process. With three offices in Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Buckhead, and Marietta, we proudly service our clients throughout the Atlanta metropolitan area.
Schedule a consultation today by calling us at 770-280-1488 or completing a contact form.