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will I have to personally serve him?

October 3, 2017

hear that they must personally serve their spouse with the divorce papers, and they mistakenly believe that this means they must hand the paperwork to their spouse themselves.

However, what it really means is that you must make sure that your spouse receives the papers personally. It means that you can’t simply hand them to a friend of a friend who promises to give them to your spouse. You must take steps to properly serve your spouse so that he receives them and cannot deny having received them.

There are multiple ways in which you can do this.

Methods of service

Serve him yourself
Serving him yourself is one option. In this method, you personally deliver the paperwork to him, and ask him to sign the legal form that indicates he received the paperwork. You then file that acknowledgement with the court, and he is considered to have been served. This method is ideal in a divorce where the couple is still on friendly terms, and keeps things friendly.

Serve him by process server
In this method, you pay the sheriff’s department or a process server to serve the paperwork. It is handled in the same way as serving him yourself, in that the sheriff’s deputy or process server personally hands the paperwork to him (or to someone else in the home who agrees to give them to your spouse) and gets the acknowledgement of receipt signed. They then send that acknowledgement back to you to file with the court (some may send it directly to the court for you). A key thing to remember about this option is that if you and your spouse live in the same county, you can use your county sheriff or a process server from your county, but if your spouse lives in a different county, you must use that county’s sheriff or a process server from that county.

Service by mail
Service by mail is another option. This can be less expensive than the sheriff or a process server, but you must make sure to send it certified, with a return receipt requested. That return receipt is what serves as your acknowledgement that he received the paperwork, and needs to be filed with the court. However, with this method, he can refuse to accept it and you may still need to find another method to serve him.

Service by publication
Service by publication is a last resort, and depending on your state, may need a court order before you can do so. Service by publication is the publication of a classified ad in one or more local newspapers, informing your spouse publicly that you are filing for divorce. This is only used when you are unable to locate your spouse to serve him personally, and often you will need to be able to prove to the court that you have tried and failed to locate him.

Which method is the best one to use?

The method by which you serve him really depends on many factors. In most cases, service by sheriff, process server, or mail are going to be the easiest and most reliable methods.

If you’re still not sure, a lawyer can help you decide.

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