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How Do You Serve Divorce Papers in California?

Posted by Furman & Zavatsky | Dec 13, 2018

If you have decided to get a divorce in Los Angeles County, you might be wondering how exactly to serve divorce papers on your spouse. To start, the initial paperwork is commonly known as a divorce petition (Form FL-110) or a summons. This legal paperwork provides an outline of all the important information about your marriage and what you are asking for in the divorce.

Serve Divorce Petition in Los Angeles County

This paperwork has to be filed in the relevant courthouse, typically where the filing spouse resides. Once filed, the next step in the divorce process is to have the divorce paperwork served on your spouse. Why? You must let your spouse know that paperwork has been filed at the courthouse in order to start the divorce process.

These papers will also let your spouse know what you are asking for, and they have 30 calendar days to respond. In order for the divorce process to proceed, the Los Angeles family law court will need actual proof your spouse was served with the divorce petition. Our divorce and family law attorneys can help you with this process.

The process of service requires a third-party – not the party to the divorce – to actually deliver the Summons and Petition to your spouse. California Courts require you to file a Proof of Service of Summons (form FL-115) with the court clerk's office before the divorce process proceeds.

It's important to note the family law judge on your divorce case can't make any judgments or create any permanent orders until you have served divorce papers to your spouse. Under California law, there are many different people who can serve divorce papers to your spouse by hand-delivering the paperwork, which is commonly called “personal service.”

The people you could use include friends, relatives, co-workers, a County sheriff, or a process server. However, anyone you decide to use must be over 18 years old and NOT a part of your divorce case. They must also serve the paperwork during the appropriate amount of time, complete a proof of service form, and return the proof of service to you in order for you to give to your divorce lawyer or file it with the family law court. This “proof of service” form lets the court know who was served, when, where, and how it happened.

Contact Our Divorce Lawyers to Review Your Case

If you have made the difficult decision to proceed with a divorce, proper and efficient service of process will expedite the divorce process. The experienced Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky provide a free consultation to review the specific circumstances of your divorce.

We provide personal attention to your case and your individual needs related to every area of California's family laws. In California, after divorce papers are served, the judge will typically hold a temporary hearing to make interim orders related to how you will manage during the process. Now that we have covered a general overview of how to serve divorce paperwork to your spouse let's thoroughly review the types and steps of service below.

Service of Process

Service of process, often just referred to as “service,” is the delivery of court filings to the opposing party in a court proceeding. Service occurs at the inception of a case to give the opposing party notice of the case. Generally speaking, in order to proceed with any legal matter in court, one must properly serve the opposing party so they are aware of the legal matter and have an opportunity to defend against it.

Without proper service, a court will generally not permit you to proceed with the case and may even dismiss the matter. Therefore, it is crucial to get the service right and have it completed in a timely manner.

Types of Service

Service can occur in the following methods for a divorce proceeding:

  • Personal Service. Personal service is the hand delivery of the case notice to the opposing party at any location the opposing party might be present. This may be at home, at work, or out in public. This is generally the preferred method of service as it is valid in all cases, including divorce petitions.
  • Service by Mail. Service by mail involves mailing notices to the opposing party at their home address.
  • Substituted Service. If the person serving notice has failed to personally serve the opposing party after three attempts, they may serve another member of the household with the notice provided he or she is 18 or older.
  • Service by Notice and Acknowledgement and Receipt. If the opposing party agrees to service in advance and the process server mails the notice, summons, and complaint to him or her, the opposing party can sign off on service with a written acknowledgment and receipt.
  • Service by Publication. If you are unable to locate the opposing party, you can request this type of service from the court. With service by publication, you publish notice of the legal proceeding in a local newspaper pre-approved by the court. You must demonstrate to the court that your process server diligently attempted to find the opposing party but was unable to do so.
  • Service by Posting at the Courthouse. The requirements for service by posting at the courthouse are the same as service by publication. The only difference is that you are permitted to serve by posting at the courthouse if you qualify for a fee waiver and can demonstrate you are unable to afford publication. You may then post service at the courthouse.
  • Service by Certified Mail for a Party out of State. For an opposing party residing out of state, you can serve notice by having your process server mail it via certified mail to the opposing party's out-of-state residence.
  • Service on Someone Who Lives out of the Country. If the opposing party resides out of the United States, you must follow the process required under the Hague Convention.

Steps to Perfecting Service

  1. For a divorce proceeding, the best way to proceed with service is to attempt personal service. If you have your spouse's current address, provide it to your process server so that your process server may personally deliver the summons and complaint to them.
  2. If your process server has made three attempts to serve your spouse and is unable to do so, then consider either substitute service or service by notice and acknowledgment and receipt.
  3. If your spouse is nowhere to be found and is avoiding your process server, then request service by publication from the court.
  4. If your spouse has left the State of California, then service by certified mail is permitted.
  5. Lastly, if your spouse has left the country, then your process server will need to comply with the Hague Convention, which is a complicated process that requires a knowledgeable family law attorney.

Who to Use as a Process Server

You are not permitted to act as your own process server in the State of California. Instead, you should use a process server who is eighteen or older and ideally has experience as a process server. You do not want someone who has a personal interest in the divorce to be acting in the role of the process server. If you have a divorce lawyer, such as the lawyers at Furman & Zavatsky, representing you for your divorce proceeding, we will have professional process servers available to serve notice to your spouse.

If you are getting divorced, the first step is filing the petition and serving your spouse. Our team of divorce attorneys will assist you every step of the way, including service of the process. Contact our Los Angeles divorce attorneys online or by calling 818-528-3471.

About the Author

Call a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

Family law disputes have the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness. As a result, it is critical for you to protect your rights to the fullest extent possible when involved in a dispute related to family law. The lawyers of Furman & Zavatsky have the skill and experience to resolve your case as favorably as possible and provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and representation. We also offer flat fee legal services for divorce and family law issues.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys, call our office today at 818-528-3471. Read our blog on how to prepare for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

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