How Are Divorce Papers Served?

By Henry F. Lewis on November 26, 2019

Filling out divorce papersEnding a marriage is not as straightforward as it seems. There is a process involved, and it’s important to follow all of the steps closely. Having a skilled divorce attorney on your side means having guidance every step of the way. Oakland, CA divorce lawyers Michael A. Gardner and Henry F. Lewis are here to help.

When filing for divorce, it’s crucial to serve divorce papers to your spouse. Below is some general information about this process. We can go over it in much greater detail during a legal consultation.

Filling Out and Filing the Paperwork

The first step before serving your spouse divorce papers is filling out the proper paperwork and filing. This divorce petition needs to be filled out in full and is typically filed with the court in the county in which the spouse resides.

Hand Delivering Divorce Papers to Spouse

After filing the divorce papers, next you must hand deliver the divorce papers to your spouse.

If you are having an amicable divorce, this is a generally simple and straightforward process. If your spouse is abusive, violent, or has threatened violence, hand delivering divorce papers is generally not a good idea given the risk involved. Thankfully there are other ways to go about this.

Having Someone Else Deliver Divorce Papers to Your Spouse

If you are unable to serve your spouse or it is unwise to do so because of potential harm, you’re allowed to have someone else hand serve divorce papers to your spouse on your behalf. We have worked with many clients in the greater Oakland area who have had someone else serve divorce papers to their spouse.

The person who serves divorce papers for you must be at least 18 years of age and not personally involved in the divorce.

Who Can Deliver Divorce Papers to a Spouse on Your Behalf?

In California, the following people are allowed to serve divorce papers for you:

  • A friend
  • A relative
  • A co-worker
  • A county sheriff or marshal
  • A professional process server

The last two options (county sheriff and professional process server) are important to consider if your spouse is stubborn, abusive, or potentially violent. County sheriffs and professional process servers have experience dealing with difficult personalities.

Your Spouse Must Sign Acceptance of Service

Upon being served, your spouse must sign the Acceptance of Service, which confirms that they have in fact been served divorce papers. This must then be filed with the court.

Keep in mind that signing the Acceptance of Service means only that they confirm they’ve been served, not that they agree to the terms of the divorce.

What to Do If Your Spouse Cannot Be Located or Avoids Being Served

If your spouse is evading divorce papers and refuses to be served in person even by sheriffs or process servers, there are other options available.

  • Serving Your Spouse by Mail - You can send divorce papers to your spouse through first-class mail. Your spouse will need to sign and date the Acknowledgment form, which is filed with the court as if it were an Acceptance of Service.
  • Serving Your Spouse via Publication Notice - When in-person delivery and mail delivery have failed, you can request serving your spouse through a publication. This involves taking an ad in the local paper in which your spouse lives, which must run for three consecutive weeks. You can file the ad and a statement from the newspaper confirming when the ad was placed with the court.

Contact a Skilled Family Law Attorney

If you live in Oakland and want more information about your legal options in a divorce and what to expect, be sure to contact our team of divorce attorneys. You can reach the law firm of Gardner & Lewis, LLP by phone at (510) 451-4822.

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Oakland Office

1939 Harrison St
Ste 210
Oakland, CA 94612

More Info Directions (510) 451-4822