Does my spouse have to be served with the initial divorce papers?
Yes. If you file for divorce, your spouse must be served with the initial divorce papers.
Exception: Your spouse does not need to be served with the initial divorce papers if he or she will voluntarily fill out and sign:
- A Respondent’s Original Answer form or
- A Waiver of Service Only form (this form must be signed in front of a notary).
If your spouse will voluntarily fill out and sign an answer or waiver of service, the rest of this article does not apply to you.
What papers do I have served?
Your spouse must be served with the initial divorce papers, which include:
- The citation (get this form at the clerk’s office when you file your case);
- A copy of your Original Petition for Divorce; and
- A copy of any other forms you filed with your Original Petition for Divorce.
Can I be the server?
No. You must arrange for a constable, sheriff, or private process server to serve the initial divorce papers. Or, you can request the court clerk to arrange service for the initial divorce papers.
Who Can Serve Divorce Papers?
Every state allows several possible methods for serving your spouse. The one rule that all of them have in common, though, is that you can’t serve your spouse yourself. Instead, you’ll have to find a “process server” to do it for you. A process server is someone who is not involved in the divorce and who is at least 18 years old must deliver the documents.
Possible process servers include:
- A friend or family member. As long as the person isn’t involved in the divorce, you can have a friend or family member act as your process server and save yourself the expense of having to pay someone. You’ll have to make sure the friend or family member closely follows all state and local rules regarding service, though, or risk having to start the process over.
- A sheriff’s office. Check with the local sheriff’s department to see if it will serve your spouse—most sheriff’s offices offer this service for a fee. Many charge based on the mileage the sheriff must travel to serve the documents, and will charge an extra fee for each attempt at service. If you’re not sure where your spouse can be served, though, the sheriff might not be your best choice—most sheriff’s offices require you to provide a definite address where your spouse will be. Also, your spouse must be located within the area that the sheriff’s office works (known as the office’s “jurisdiction”).
- A professional process server. You can find a professional process server by searching online or using the National Association of Professional Process Servers’ directory. Process servers usually charge more than the sheriff’s office to serve documents, but are better equipped to deal with situations where you aren’t sure of your spouse’s location. Process servers also often complete service faster than the sheriff’s office, so they’re a good choice if you’re facing a tight service deadline.
Experienced Family Law Attorney in Houston, TX
At Renken Law Firm, we work with our clients to help them navigate the divorce process. We understand how complicated and emotionally draining this experience can be, this is why we work with you every step of the way. Contact our law office to explore your options for traditional marriage divorce and common law divorce, and find out how we can help you resolve any legal problems you are currently facing.
Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
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