Serving the Divorce Petition
You have multiple options when it comes to properly serving the divorce petition on your spouse and any other parties. If your spouse agrees to sign a joinder, then personal service is not required. Short of this, however, there are two ways the paper can be served:
- Hand-delivered OR
- Certified mail, return receipt requested
In order for your spouse to be served, there are requirements that must be met –
Anyone 18 or older (but not you) can hand the papers to your spouse.
- It can be a family member or a friend.
- You can also hire someone to do it. You can hire anyone, or you can hire a professional process server.
- It cannot be you who hands the papers to your spouse.
The papers must be delivered only to your spouse; however there are a couple of exceptions to this rule.
- The papers can be given to someone “of suitable age and discretion” who lives in the same home with your spouse. You’ll need to be able to convince the judge that your spouse lives with this other person.
- If your spouse has specifically authorized someone else to accept the papers on his/her behalf.
You spouse can be given the papers anywhere they can be found – at home, at work, on the street, at a friend’s house, and at the gas station.
If your spouse won’t take the papers –
- If the person delivering the papers can’t get to your spouse face to face, you will have to keep trying.
- If the person delivering the papers tries to hand them to your spouse but your spouse won’t take them, it may be good enough to drop the papers at your spouse’s feet, if the person delivering the papers can identify the person as your spouse and first says to your spouse that these are court papers for a divorce. The judge will decide.
Service via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested
Certified mail means that the Post Office gives you a slip that proves that you mailed a letter. A “return receipt” is a green postcard that the Post Office attaches to the letter that the recipient must sign to show that he or she got the letter. The Post Office mails the green card back to you. Both the certified mail slip and the green card need to be kept.
Some things to keep in mind:
- You can mail the papers yourself to any address where you think your spouse will receive and sign for them. For example, home or work.
- If your spouse refuses to sign the return receipt (green card) and the papers come back to you, then you need to keep trying. You may also want to try hand-delivery.
You have 60 days from the day you file your divorce papers to serve your spouse.
- If you are not able to serve within that time, you can go back to the Family Court Intake Center before the 60 days are up. They will give you a new Summons, which gives you an additional 60 days.
- If you need more time after that, you will have to ask the judge for more time. You can file a written request or, if you have your initial court hearing before the 60 days are up, you can ask the judge then.
- If you do not follow these procedures, your case may be dismissed and you will have to file a motion to vacate the dismissal or file a new case and start all over again.
→ Go to Response from Spouse
Chad Foster is a trusted Washington lawyer serving Snohomish and King counties with an office in Bothell. Contact us today to discuss your legal issue.