Serving Divorce Papers On Your Spouse
Divorce proceedings won’t officially start until someone actually files for divorce, which in turn, requires the serving of divorce papers on the other spouse. Florida requires that petitioners comply with specific service of process rules to ensure that the respondent spouse receives proper notice of the pending legal action. Whether you are the one filing for divorce, the petitioner, or the respondent spouse, or the one receiving the papers, it is important to have a thorough understanding of these rules. To ensure that your own divorce is filed correctly, reach out to an experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyer who is well-versed in the service of process rules in Florida.
Who Can Serve Divorce Papers?
Once a petitioner has filed divorce papers with the court, the clerk will give him or her a summons. A copy of this summons and the divorce petition will then need to be served on the other spouse. These papers must be served in accordance with specific rules. Divorce papers must, for instance, be served by the Sheriff in the county where the respondent spouse lives, or by a certified or special process server. These documents cannot be served by the spouse who filed for divorce, even if they are still residing in the same home.
How are Divorce Papers Delivered?
The person designated to serve divorce papers cannot merely leave those documents in the mailbox, unless the respondent is purposely avoiding service. Instead, they must deliver the paperwork to the respondent spouse personally or with a member of that person’s household who is at least 15 years of age. Process servers can also deliver the divorce paperwork to the respondent spouse at that person’s place of work. In these cases, however, the process server will need to contact the recipient’s employer and inform him or her of the impending attempt. Employers must comply with this request or risk a $1,000 fine. Finally, if the respondent spouse doesn’t live in Florida, then the process server will need to ensure that he or she complies with the laws of that state when delivering the documents.
Does My Spouse Have to Respond?
Once a spouse has been served with divorce papers, he or she will have 20 days to file a response with the court. This document should address the initial complaint and any additional issues and can even contain a counter petition. Within 45 days of serving the papers, both spouses will need to complete a financial affidavit and submit supporting documentation.
What if My Spouse Can’t Be Located?
If the petitioner cannot locate the other spouse, then he or she won’t be required to officially serve those papers, but could be eligible for a “Divorce by Publication”. In these cases, the process server will file an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, confirming that he or she attempted to find the respondent spouse, but couldn’t do so. Once a judge has been informed of the unsuccessful attempt, the process server will publish a legal notice in the local newspaper, announcing the divorce.
Legal Advice When in Need
If you have questions about Florida’s rules for service of process, don’t hesitate to call experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. for help. Call us at 954-945-7591 or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation.