I keep hearing that I have to ‘serve’ my spouse for a divorce. What does this mean, and how can I do it?
The law affords everyone ‘due process.’ Or in plain English, before you can sue someone, you have to first tell them what you want and why. Yes – a divorce is a lawsuit! Your spouse therefore must receive notice (via “service”) that you have filed suit, as well as notice of what exactly you are suing them for. In other words, you have to tell your spouse the legal reason for your requested divorce. If you do not get your spouse properly served, your case can be delayed.
You can find the forms needed for service here.
Types of service:
The easiest way to serve is by waiving formal service by submitting a “Waiver and Acceptance of Service Form.” The Petitioner (filing spouse) provides the waiver to the Respondent (spouse responding to the petition). The Respondent must sign the Verification section of this form for it to be valid.
Personal service is completed by a 1) third-party, who is not a party to the divorce, and 2) they have to be 18 years or older. This is typically completed by a process server, which requires a fee. You can also have the Sheriff’s Department or someone you know, who meets the requirements and knows the rules of service, to serve your spouse.
Service by registered mail requires approval from the Court. This is typically done in cases where personal service is not possible or when your spouse cannot be found. To approve a motion for these types of service, you have to submit Form JDF 1301 to the Court outlining the ways you tried to locate your spouse in order to serve them in person, methods which include (but are not limited to): contacting their employer(s) or landlord; Internet searches; and reaching out to their family for a forwarding address. If the Court is satisfied that you did the required due diligence, the motion is granted and you can send service by registered mail if you have their known address. You are responsible for the cost of service by registered mail.
Service by publication also requires approval from the Court. The process is similar to service by registered mail, in which you submit Form JDF 1301 to show the Court you’ve done your due diligence in trying to locate your spouse, and if granted, followed by a Form JDF 1302 to verify to the Court the details of the publication in addition to mailing the notice to their last known address. Typically, service by publication is reserved for situations where your spouse’s exact whereabouts are unknown. You will need to publish notice of the summons in a local newspaper once a week for five consecutive weeks and are responsible for the costs associated with this type of service.