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How to Serve Court Documents

Serving court documents is extremely important to your case. You have filed your petition for divorce or custody with the court. Now you need to serve that petition on the other side (i.e. your current spouse, or the father/mother of your child). This is called service of process in legal terms. Here are some important tips to properly serve your documents:
  • Who should be serving court documents?

Never serve the petition and summons yourself. You can have anyone over the age of 18 serve the other person as long as they are not a party to the case. This can be a friend or a neighbor. Putting it in the mail is not OK. The best way to do it is to have someone personally deliver it. Although it is not recommended, you can have a mail carrier do it if they get a signature from the person receiving it. Be sure that you have some proof of what documents were delivered to the other side. If you choose to have a 3rd party do it, make sure they write down when and how they delivered it, and who they delivered it to.
  • Who can I serve the documents on?

The most direct method of serving your court documents is having your 3rd party personally hand it to the other person. If the other side is living with someone (like a parent or roommate), you can serve it on them so long as they are over 18 years of age.
  • How long do I have to serve the documents?

After you file with the court, you have 120 days to serve your court documents on the other side. If you serve the other side before filing, you need to file your documents with the court within 10 days.
  • What documents do I need to serve and file?

When you begin an action in court you need to file and serve certain documents. You also need to make sure that you can prove to the court that you served the documents. In a family law case, the two most important documents to serve are your petition and your summons. You petition says what you want, and your summons tells the other side where and when they must file their response. After service, make sure you file your "proof of service". This tells the court when and how the other party was served.
There are other documents you can serve which can speed up the process. If your divorce is uncontested, it is possible to have your spouse sign a waiver, for example. If you have more questions about this. We can assist you with an uncontested divorce for a relatively low flat-fee.
  • What if I don't know where the other side is?

It can happen sometimes that the other side has disappeared. You may ask yourself how you can serve them when you don't know where they are. The court will allow you to serve them through alternative means, such as through publication (either in print or on the internet), email or other messages. But before you can do this, you have to ask the court for permission. You will first have to show the court all of the ways you tried to find this other person. The court has an excellent resource page for helping you find someone. You can find that here.
Serving court documents properly is crucial towards starting, and potentially ending your case (through default). Make sure you do it right! If you need help with serving your court documents, or are looking for ways in which to expedite your divorce, contact us now!

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