After you file for separation, the next step is to make sure your spouse is “served” with a copy of the summons and complaint (and anything else you filed). The Court does not serve the papers for you. Visit this section to learn about how to have your spouse served, and what to do if you do not know where to find your spouse.
Please read the information on this page very carefully. If your spouse (the "Defendant") is not properly served, your case could get dismissed and you will have to start all over!
What to Serve
Your spouse must be served with the following:
- A copy of the filed Complaint for Separation
- A copy of the Summons
Always keep the originals if the court gave them back to you. The original may need to be returned to the court for filing after your spouse has been served. Always make copies of documents to be served on your spouse.
When to Serve the Defendant
Your documents must be served within 120 days after you file the complaint. If your spouse is not served within 120 days, your case will be dismissed and you will have to start all over.
Who Can Serve the Defendant
The papers must be served by a "disinterested person." This means someone who is not a party in the case, not interested in the outcome of the case, and who is at least 18 years old. Family members and significant others (boyfriends/girlfriends) cannot serve the documents, as this could raise questions with the court. You can ask a neutral person to serve the documents, or you can hire the sheriff, constable, or a private process service to serve the documents for a fee.
The person who serves your documents must complete an Affidavit of Service that says when, where, and how the documents were served. The affidavit must be filed with the court to show that your spouse was properly served. If you use the sheriff, constable, or a private process server, they may have their own form to complete as proof of service. If you have someone else serve the summons and complaint, they can download and fill out the Affidavit of Service below, which will be filed with the court as the proof of service.
Generally, you cannot serve the papers. You can serve the documents yourself ONLY IF the Defendant (or Defendant's attorney) is willing to waive formal service of the documents and will accept the documents from you. The Defendant will have to complete a "Waiver of Service of Summons and Complaint," and you must file the document with the court.
How to Serve the Defendant
Your spouse must be personally served with a copy of the documents. This means someone must hand-deliver the documents to the defendant in person. Your spouse can be served anywhere – at home, at work, etc. The person who serves the Defendant must complete an Affidavit of Service stating when, where and what documents were served on the Defendant.
File Proof of Service
Remember, the Affidavit of Service must be filed with the court so the judge knows when and where the Defendant was served. If this is not filed within 120 days of when you filed your complaint, the judge may dismiss your case! If you still have the original Summons, that must be filed as well.
Bring the Affidavit of Service and the original Summons (if you still have it) to the court for filing. Both must be filed.
If You Can’t Find the Defendant
You must do everything you can to locate your spouse.
However, if Defendant is evading service or cannot be found, you have two options:
If You Can Contact Defendant, But Don't Have An Address, Request Alternate Service
You can ask the judge for permission to serve by alternate means. This could mean sending the documents by email, by social media, by texting the documents, etc.
The full instructions are below, however, if you want to e-file, you should fill out the individual forms below separately. If the judge allows you to serve by alternate service, you will have to send the documents through every method the judge identifies on the order.
If You Cannot Find Defendant At All, Request Publication
If you have no contact at all with the other parent and don't know where to find him/her, the judge expects you to do everything possible to try and find them. Contact friends, family members, employers, coworkers, or anyone who might know where to find Defendant. Search for Defendant online through social networking sites and by email. You can also check the Post Office for forwarding information. Check with any source that might lead you to a good address. This is called doing your “due diligence.” The judge will want to see you tried as many avenues as possible to find Defendant.
If you still cannot find the other parent, you can ask the Court for permission to publish the summons in a newspaper instead. You may also have to mail the documents to a last known address if you have one. You will have to detail all of the efforts you made to find Defendant.
The full instructions are below. Howver, if you want to efile, you should fill out the individual forms below separately.