Deciding to file papers is the critical first step in filing for divorce. Whether you're ready to serve the papers or not, you need to understand what will happen before and after you serve the papers. Here are frequently asked questions when serving divorce papers to your spouse.
Can I Hand The Divorce Papers To My Spouse Myself?
No, you cannot personally serve your spouse divorce papers. Only people listed in Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 103 can serve the papers which includes a constable, sheriff, or other person authorized by the court or by law. That way there is legal proof that a neutral, third-party served the paperwork, and that it was received by your spouse. Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 106 requires that the process server first try to deliver the papers in person or by certified mail.
You can ask the court to serve them in another way if trying to serve them in person or by certified mail doesn't work. Texas rules now let you serve people by e-mail or even social media. This is called substituted service.
How Can I Serve My Spouse Papers If I Don't Know Where My Spouse Is?
If you are not sure where your spouse is, you must first try very hard to find them. You should ask their friends, family, and former employers. You can try writing to them at their last known address. In order to be able to serve them in another way, you will need to provide evidence to the court about all of the ways you have tried to find them.
If you have exhausted all previously known locations and still cannot find them, you can ask the court to let you serve them by posting or publication. Service by posting is where a notice of the divorce is posted at the courthouse. Service by publication is where notice is printed in a newspaper that meets certain requirements. However, you cannot serve by posting if there are children under the age of 18 involved in your divorce. If you have minor children and cannot find your spouse, you must serve by publication.
What If My Spouse Is Currently Incarcerated?
Serving divorce papers requires following a certain process. For example, you cannot simply mail the papers to the jail. Instead, ask the clerk whether service is mandatory, given that your spouse is incarcerated. If it is a requirement, you can hire the local sheriff's office to serve the papers for you. This ensures the service is legal. If you do not properly serve papers, it can delay your proceedings.
Can The Papers Be Served To A Relative Of My Spouse?
The papers must be given to your spouse directly, not to someone else. However the papers can be given to someone of suitable age and discretion who lives in the same home with your spouse. You will have to be able to convince the judge that your spouse lives with this other person. If your spouse authorizes, in writing, someone else to accept the papers, then you can serve that person.
What If My Spouse Refuses To Take The Papers?
Sometimes, a spouse thinks they can block the divorce by not signing the papers they're served. However, one spouse cannot prevent the other spouse from obtaining a divorce. A Texas court can grant a divorce petition even if the other spouse does not cooperate.
If your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers, your divorce becomes contested. While the divorce will still go through, it will likely extend the divorce process. If your spouse refuses to sign the divorce decree, you will have to set a hearing and present evidence to a judge so they can determine the terms of the divorce.
Will I Need A Lawyer If I'm Served Divorce Papers?
Although you do not have to have a lawyer to file or respond to a divorce case, it is a good idea to speak with one to decide if a lawyer is right for your case. Divorce cases can be complicated and your rights as a parent, your property and your money may be at risk. It’s a good idea to talk with a family law lawyer about your particular situation. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families. A family law lawyer can explain your rights and what options will be best for you.
How Long Do I Have To Serve My Spouse The Papers?
Your spouse has 21 days to file an Answer with the court. The Answer is your spouse's statement that tells the court whether he or she agrees or disagrees with what you say in your divorce Complaint, including whether he or she agrees or disagrees with what you say or wants the court to do something different.
Understand that when you serve papers to your spouse, you are now engaged in legal proceeding and talking to a lawyer is a great next step. C.Y. Lee Legal Group, PLLC is here to help. Our team has more than a decade of experience helping families through the divorce process. We are committed to finding the best solution for your case while keeping your best interests in mind throughout the process.