All About the “Summons” and “Appearance”

When a case is commenced in court, whether it is a divorce case, a child support case, or any other sort of family law related case, unless you agree to “waive” being served, you will be served a Summons. The Summons commands you to “appear” at a specific place, by a certain date after you are served. The word “appear” is a term of art in the legal profession and can be confusing. It can mean that you actually physically need to appear for Court, or at the Court house. However, most often on a Summons, the “Appearance” that is being contemplated is actually referring to an Appearance on your behalf being filed in the case. This is a document that you or your attorney must file in the case with the clerk’s office to let the Judge and opposing party know that you will be participating in the litigation. In the event that you do not “appear” or file your appearance, or, hire an attorney to do it for you, in the time specified, the opposing party may proceed without you. The Judge will no longer require that you be present before relief will be granted, and you may not receive further notice of court dates or orders.
It is very important that a litigant that is served a Summons reads the Summons carefully and consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Litigants must make sure that they do not miss their date by which you need to Appear. Failing to “appear” in the case can have serious, sometimes irreversible consequences.
If you have been served a Summons in a family law related matter, the clock is ticking. Feel free to call our attorneys for a consultation on how it is best to proceed.

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