When initiating a divorce, you’re supposed to inform your spouse by serving them paperwork. The law states that you have to give your spouse an official notice that you have begun the divorce process, and the best way to do that is by giving him or her a copy of the same paperwork you submitted with the court. The judge for your divorce case is not going to impose any judgments or enforce permanent orders until you have successfully served divorce papers to the other spouse.
There are certain people that can serve divorce papers to your spouse by hand delivering it to them, such as a friend, relative, co-worker, professional process server, marshall, or county sheriff. As long as the person is over the age of 18 and is not a part of your divorce case, they can serve your spouse documentation. The person you choose as the server must deliver the divorce paperwork within a reasonable amount of time, complete a proof of service form, and then return it back to you and the court. This proof of service informs the court who was served, when and where it happened, and the manner in which it was delivered.
If it does not seem appropriate to hand deliver the divorce papers, there are other ways that you can get it to your spouse. You can send it to them by mail, substitute of service (such as leaving a document at another’s home), service publication (publishing summons or complaint in local newspaper), or service by posting (if your spouse is not locatable, you can post it at the courthouse with approval). As always, your lawyer is someone you can turn to for advice on how to serve your spouse divorce paperwork so that you remain safe and that the task is done properly.
If you and your spouse have a contentious relationship where there is not an agreement to the divorce, you’ll probably need to hire a professional to deliver the paperwork for you. Your lawyer can recommend a process server and ensure that documents are filled out properly and served accordingly. Feel free to ask questions to your local court clerk, court self-help center, or family court services. Keep in mind that if you need a process server, there will usually be a fee depending on how many times it takes to serve the paperwork, among other factors. Some spouses will be more elusive than others, so your process servicer may need several attempts and to use certain strategies to find them.
Similar to what our divorce lawyer associates from Bernie Kempen would suggest, it often takes collaborative effort from several professionals for divorce paperwork to be successfully served to the other spouse, particularly if they do not agree to the separation. Numerous attempts and investigative strategies may have to be used before a spouse can be successfully served.