What is Service in a Divorce Case and Why Does It Matter?

a woman looks pensive while red question marks float over her headStarting a divorce requires detailed attention to both the substance of the case and the procedure. Parties to a divorce need to pay strict attention to issues such as jurisdiction, venue, the contents of their initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and service of process. Service of process is an essential step in any civil law suit, and divorce cases are no exception. In fact, a divorce is not officially started until service of process is complete. A party to a law suit is constitutionally entitled to notice that the law suit is going on so that he or she can appear in court and provide a defense. If you cannot demonstrate to the court that you have completed service in the way required by Minnesota law, you will not be able to proceed with your divorce.

Service of process can happen in several different ways in a divorce case. Personal service is the most common way. Personal service means that a law enforcement officer or another third person (often a private process server hired to serve the papers) will physically deliver the divorce papers to your spouse.

If your spouse is cooperative with the divorce process or has already hired an attorney, it is possible to serve your spouse by mail. In order to complete this method of service, your spouse or his or her attorney must be willing sign an Acknowledgment or Admission of Service form.

Cases where your spouse has disappeared or is particularly skilled at dodging service may require a method called substitute service. If you can demonstrate that you have done your best to locate your spouse and serve the papers but have been unable to do so, you can ask the court’s permission to conduct service by publication. This means that you will run an ad in the local newspaper designated for legal notices for a specific amount of time. After the time elapses and if your spouse does not respond, you can proceed with your divorce even though your spouse has never physically received the divorce papers.

We have helped many clients with all types of divorce litigation, ranging from simple to highly complex. Contact us today at (651) 371-9117 to talk about your case and how we can help you get started.

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