Read the hazmana, and see who signed it. It is usually the secretary of the Beis Din. If the date to appear is approaching or if the date by which you needed to respond has passed, call the number on the hazmana, and do the following:
* Ask with whom you are speaking and write down the person’s name.
* Note the time of the call and how long the conversation lasted.
* Tell the person that you received a hazmana with a date that has passed.
* If the hazmana is not written in English, firmly request that all future correspondence be in English.
* Request a future date so that you have time to retain someone to help you – an attorney or to’en).
* Inform the person with whom you are speaking that you are a Bas Yisroel and that you intend to comply with halacha after obtaining help.
Write down what the Beis Din representative tells you.
Depending on the state where you reside, you may be legally allowed to record your own phone calls, either made or received by you. If you are allowed to, then do so.
* Follow all this up with a written letter to the Beis Din:
* Write a letter that same day addressed to the same person you spoke to confirming your telephone conversation.
* Explain that you will need at least four weeks to respond to the hazmana in order to find professional help, as well as to discuss this with your family. Also ask for at least two weeks’ notice before you have to appear at the Beis Din so that you have sufficient time to make these arrangements.
* Reiterate that you are a Bas Yisroel and you have every intention of complying with halacha.
* Ask for the new date to be sent to you in a written letter.
* Make a few copies of the letter and mail with return receipt requested.
* Keep a copy of the letter and proof that you mailed the letter. In addition, if you hire a to’en or attorney, make sure that he has complied with all of the above, and gives you copies of all correspondences between him, the Beis Din, and the opposing side.
* If possible, give one copy of all your information to someone you trust and keep one set of copies in a safety deposit box.
You should contact an attorney who has experience in Beis Din, specifically matrimonial cases. The contents of your conversation with your attorney are confidential and privileged. But if a family member or anyone else is in the room with you and the attorney, you lose the privilege and the conversation is no longer confidential. Ask your attorney to explain “privilege” to you. Ask the family member to leave the room if you want to maintain the privilege. I know he/she is there for support, but it is in your best interests for this person to stay in the waiting room. Let the attorney explain this to your friend or family member. If you are going to counseling or family therapy, ask the counselor or therapist whether your conversations are confidential by law.
Important – the hazmana is summoning you to appear in a particular Beis Din. You do not have to appear at the Beis Din chosen by your spouse. You have the right to choose a different Beis Din. Once you have had the time to discuss the matter with either your family, rav, or attorney, you or your representative can then send another letter to the Beis Din stating that you have chosen a different Beis Din and provide it with its name.