After turning in your divorce papers to the court, you must have your spouse served with a copy of them. To serve your spouse means that someone other than yourself hands them the divorce papers. This method is referred to as personal service. Still, various circumstances can make personal service difficult or impossible.
If this is the case, you have other options for getting the documents to your spouse, such as:
- By mail,
- By publication or posting, or
- By following the agreed-upon processes with a foreign country.
Each service method has specific requirements that must be met before they can be pursued. If you fail to serve your spouse or do not follow the rules, your divorce could be delayed.
At Claery & Hammond, LLP, our Los Angeles lawyers help our clients through every stage of the divorce proceedings. If you need legal assistance, please contact us at (310) 817-6904.
The Purpose of Serving Divorce Papers
Anytime anyone initiates a legal action through the court, they must provide the other side with notice that they began the case. Thus, when you file for a divorce, you are legally obligated to give your spouse copies of the submitted forms. This ensures that they know that you have started the process of ending your marriage.
Methods for Serving Divorce Documents
Generally, divorce papers are served through personal service. With this method, someone besides yourself hands copies of documents to your spouse. The person who gives them the forms is called the server. They can be anyone you know who’s 18 years of age or older and not involved in the case.
Individuals who can be your server include, but are not limited to:
- County sheriffs, or
- Professional process servers.
Personal service isn’t always possible. Perhaps your spouse lives out of state or out of the country. Or maybe you’re having trouble locating them. What do you do then?
You have a couple of options for fulfilling your service of court papers duty:
- Mail with Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt: This method is typically employed in situations where a spouse lives out of state. It involves mailing a copy of the divorce documents to your spouse with a Notice of Acknowledgement and Receipt form. As with personal service, someone other than yourself must mail the forms to your spouse. After your spouse receives and signs them, they send them back to the server. It’s a good idea to include a return envelope with your documents to ensure that your spouse can mail them back efficiently.
- Service by posting or publication: You may use either of these methods if you can’t find your spouse. You must get the court’s permission to pursue them. Before the court allows you to do service by posting or publication, you must show that you made a good faith attempt to locate your spouse, such as by talking to the people they know, checking jails or prisons, going through social media, looking at property records, or exploring any other possible avenues.
With service by posting, your server posts notice of your filing for divorce in the courthouse. You must have a fee waiver to qualify for this option.
With service by publication, you must publish notification of your divorce in a newspaper circulated in an area you think your spouse might be. The publication must be done once a week for four consecutive weeks.
- Service by foreign country processes: If your spouse lives outside of the U.S., you must use the service method of the country where they live or the processes agreed upon by the U.S. and the other country.
Consequences of Not Serving Divorce Papers
Service of divorce papers is required to continue with the proceedings. If it’s done incorrectly or not at all, your divorce could be delayed, as no orders can be made until your spouse is aware that the case has been initiated.
Once the documents have been given to your spouse, the server must complete a form as proof that the papers have been received.
After Divorce Papers Have Been Served
After your spouse receives the divorce papers, they have 30 days to respond. After they submit their response, the divorce moves forward, and you and your spouse must exchange financial information.
Even if your spouse doesn’t file an answer, your divorce can still proceed, provided that service was done correctly. In this case, the matter would be decided by default, meaning that the judge makes decisions without hearing your spouse’s side.
Reach Out to Claery & Hammond, LLP
The requirements of serving papers can get complicated. Having an attorney on your side can facilitate proper handling of this crucial part of the divorce process.
Learn how a member of our Los Angeles team can help by calling us at (310) 817-6904 or submitting an online contact form today.