Understanding the Summons With Notice
An action for divorce is usually started with the filing of a special form of summons called a Summons with Notice. The attorney for the plaintiff files this document with the County Clerk before a copy of it is served on the defendant. The mere act of filing the Summons with Notice is what makes the filing party the plaintiff, and gives the case its caption, along with an index number that will be affixed to all legal papers generated in the case thereafter. The other party is called the defendant. The date that the Summons is filed is the “date of commencement” of the case, which is generally considered the cut-off date for the accumulation of marital property.
There are numerous features of the Summons with Notice that should be understood. First, the Summons gives notice of the grounds for divorce that will be the basis of the Court’s power to dissolve the marriage. It also provides an addendum of relief that the plaintiff will be asking the Court to grant in the final judgment, in addition to the dissolution of the marriage. This is typically stated in a very general fashion, such as “equitable distribution, maintenance, custody of the children” etc., to avoid being committed to any particular disposition early in the case before there has been disclosure and an opportunity to provide a detailed statement of disposition to the court.