How to Serve Divorce Papers in Texas?
- Meaning of serving divorce papers
- What documents do you serve?
- Ways to serve divorce papers
- How to serve divorce papers outside of Texas
- How long do you have?
- How much does it cost?
- Serving divorce papers in Texas FAQs
Serving divorce papers is the legal process of notifying your ex of your intention to end your marriage.
You can serve divorce papers through an impartial third party, the mail, or even a newspaper advertisement. But you can’t give them to your spouse yourself.
Keep reading to find out how to serve divorce papers, and find out about one method that could help you to skip serving altogether.
What does it mean to serve divorce papers?
A divorce is a lawsuit, and like all legal proceedings, it requires paperwork. Once you have filed your divorce petitions with the courthouse in your Texas county, you must notify your ex. You will do that by serving papers.
You can skip the serving process if you and your spouse agree to participate in an uncontested divorce. You settle your estate and childcare arrangements privately and have your terms set before you file for divorce.
If your spouse agrees to fill out and sign one of two forms, you don't need to serve them with divorce papers. These are the two forms:
- Respondent’s Original Answer form
- Waiver of Service Only form (which must be signed in front of a notary)
If your ex will not fill out these forms, you must proceed with serving divorce papers.
What documents will you serve to your spouse?
Two types of documents make up the bundle of paperwork you will serve to your spouse in Texas.
The two types are as follows:
- Personal: A copy of your Original Petition for Divorce is required. The version you will serve has been stamped by the courts and returned to you when you filed for divorce.
- Governmental: The court provides a Citation, notifying your ex of the divorce. You’ll get this document when you file.
Remember that you must serve official, stamped documents (not copies). Other paperwork is required to finalize your divorce, but these two sets of documents make up the bundle of papers served.
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Ways to serve divorce papers in Texas
You can't hand your spouse divorce paperwork in Texas. Instead, you must move through a formal, legal process. Several options exist. You should pick your option before you file for divorce, so your clerk can deliver your paperwork to the person you've hired to help you.
A server is an impartial adult (18 and older). Constables, sheriffs, professional process servers, or court clerks can take your documents to your ex and hand them over.
The server fills out and files a Return of Service form with the court. This document serves as proof that your spouse has been notified of the divorce.
If you know where your spouse resides, mail service is a good option. It works like this:
- The constable or clerk can mail divorce papers to your spouse via certified mail, requesting a return receipt.
- Your spouse goes to a post office to pick up these documents and sign a card on pickup.
- That card is returned to the constable or clerk, who then fills out and files a Return of Service form.
You've hired a personal service to serve papers, but that person hasn't reached your ex in person or via certified mail. The server can confirm that your spouse lives or works at the address where papers were filed, but your ex won't participate.
You can file a Motion for Substituted Service and provide proof that you've tried to reach your spouse. If the judge is convinced, an Order for Substituted Service authorizes your server to leave your papers with anyone at the address who is 16 or older. Your server can also deliver those papers via any other method that seems reasonably effective.
Service by posting
You share no children with your ex, and you’re not sure where to serve papers. You’ve tried to track down addresses, but you can’t confirm one. You can post a notice about your divorce in a public forum.
You must file an Affidavit for Citation by Posting and file it with a Motion for Citation by Posting. The court will issue an Order on Motion for Citation by Posting and tell you how to notify your ex about the divorce.
Service by publication
If you share children with your ex, you can’t use service by posting. But you can use a newspaper published in your county, along with a citation on the Texas public information website, to notify your spouse.
File an Affidavit for Citation by Publication (in a Divorce with Children). This provides specifics about the different ways you tried to find your spouse. You’ll also file a Motion for Citation by Publication (in a Divorce with Children).
If granted, a judge will sign the Order on Motion for Citation by Publication (in a Divorce with Children).
How to serve divorce papers to a spouse living outside of Texas
You can file for divorce if you live in Texas, even if your ex lives in another state. Serving papers is slightly more difficult, but it's not impossible.
You can use one of the following options:
- Connect with local process servers. Find an organization in the city, state, or country where your ex lives and ask them to serve papers for you.
- Use certified mail. Ask your server to send paperwork to your spouse where they live, even if it’s in another country.
- Try publishing in the paper. Most communities have some kind of public paper you could use to give your spouse notice.
If your spouse lives outside the United States, you could also connect with diplomatic or consular officials. Or you could ask the judge to help you find a method that’s in accordance with the laws where your spouse lives.
How long do you have to serve Texas divorce papers?
No formal deadline governs when you must serve papers to your ex. In general, it's best to start the serving process as soon as you file, especially if you know finding your ex will take time. Delays can also slow down your divorce proceedings.
How much does it cost to serve papers?
Servers charge a wide range of fees, depending on the complexity of the case and the compliance of your spouse. A simple transaction could cost $20 or so, but longer cases could cost $100 or more.
If you opt to notify your spouse through the newspaper, prepare to pay $200 per week, on average.
FAQ about serving divorce papers in Texas
Can you serve your own divorce papers in Texas?
No. You must ask an impartial third party to serve divorce papers for you.
Can you serve divorce papers by certified mail in Texas?
Yes, but an impartial third party must mail them for you.
ReferencesHow to Serve the Initial Divorce Papers. (January 2023). TexasLawHelp.org
Responding to a Divorce Case. (January 2023). TexasLawHelp.org.
My Spouse Filed for Divorce. (December 2022). TexasLawHelp.org.
Serving a Respondent Who Lives Outside the U.S. (January 2023). TexasLawHelp.org.