How to Serve Divorce Papers

Hossein Berenji, Dec 07, 2021

After making the decision to end your marriage, filling out the necessary paperwork, and filing it with the court, there’s another important step to take — serving the divorce papers to your spouse.

When you’re ready to move forward in the divorce process, there are specific legal requirements.

Can I Just Hand My Spouse the Papers?

You may not simply give the divorce papers to your spouse. An uninvolved third party must act as the official process server.

This point is important. Once your spouse is officially served, a finite window of time opens. Your spouse will have a limited amount of time to choose how to respond, including whether to contest the divorce.

Rules of Service

When you bring legal action against another person, you must formally inform them of the proceedings and provide them with their own copy of the paperwork. This is called “service.”

In order to act as formal notice, an uninvolved third party must act as the agent of service. Unless this important next step occurs, your divorce proceedings cannot move forward.

Who Can Serve Divorce Papers?

The good news is that just about anyone can be asked to serve divorce papers. There’s a long list of people who qualify to serve divorce papers, such as:

  • Friends
  • Family members
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers
  • Any person over 18 years of age
  • Sheriff
  • Professional process servers

Any adult who is not involved in the case qualifies to serve papers. However, they must be careful to take specific steps in order to meet the legal requirements.

How Should Papers Be Served?

A law enforcement officer will be familiar with the necessary steps. If you choose to ask a family member, friend, or acquaintance, however, make sure to rely on someone that you trust.

When you ask someone to serve papers on your behalf, you’ll need to make sure they understand the steps they must take. They will have to:

  • Serve papers on time
  • Fill out a proof of service form
  • Return the proof of service form to the court

When filling out a proof of service form, specific information will need to be accurately documented. The person serving papers will have to record details about who was served, where, when, and how the exchange took place.

Using a Professional Process Server

If you feel reluctant to ask an acquaintance to get involved with your divorce proceedings or want to ensure the legal aspects are handled correctly, the best option is to use a professional process server.

Professional process servers are people who are certified to provide service or notification of legal proceedings. California law outlines the steps process servers must take to become certified and registered.

One benefit of using a process server is that they will know exactly how to serve divorce papers correctly. They’ll also be prepared to deal with any reactions your spouse may have.

Using a disinterested and professional third party can help to maintain a level of neutrality when divorce papers are first served.

If you choose to take this route, you must locate a process server and provide them with the necessary information and paperwork, including a picture of your spouse. This helps to ensure papers are served to the correct person. You may also need to provide times and locations where your spouse can be located.

Attention to Detail Is Key

Regardless of which option you choose, the important thing is to carefully follow the established legal procedure. Do not attempt to serve papers yourself. Use a third party you trust to provide proper documentation and return it to court in a timely manner.

In order for divorce proceedings to move forward, serving divorce papers correctly is a crucial step.