How to Serve Divorce Papers in California - Stockton Family Law

When you initiate the divorce process, you’re supposed to let your spouse know—and you do that by service. California law says that you must give the other party formal notice that you’ve begun the legal process; the legal way to do that is by having him or her served with a copy of the same paperwork you filed with the court. Technically, it’s called service of process—but most people simply call it “serving divorce papers.”

How to Serve Divorce Papers in California

It’s important to understand that the judge in your case can’t make any judgments or create any permanent orders until you’ve served the divorce papers to the other party.

Your Stockton divorce lawyer will explain the ways to serve divorce papers, but if you haven’t yet had your initial divorce consultation (or the meetings that come after that), here’s a quick run-down.

Using a Process Server to Serve Divorce Papers

Under California law, any of the following people can serve divorce papers on your spouse by hand-delivering them (as long as the person you choose meets the right criteria), which is called personal service. You may use a:

  • Friend
  • Relative
  • Coworker
  • County sheriff or marshal
  • Professional process server

You can also use anyone who’s over the age of 18 who isn’t part of your divorce case.

In order to use one of the people listed here as a process server, he or she must be at least 18 and cannot be part of your divorce case. The person you use must serve the paperwork during the appropriate amount of time, fill out a proof of service form, and return the proof of service form to you so you can give it to your lawyer or file it with the court. The proof of service form tells the court who was served, when it happened, where it happened, and how it happened.

Other Ways to Serve Divorce Papers

You can also serve divorce papers on your soon-to-be ex-spouse in several other ways, including:

  • By mail. A person who is not part of the case must mail the documents to the other party.
  • Substituted service. You can only use substituted service when you have made several attempts to personally serve the other party and each attempt has failed; substituted service involves leaving the papers with someone else at the other party’s house.
  • Service by publication. You need the court’s permission to serve by publication, which involves publishing the summons and complaint in a newspaper where the other party is likely to be.
  • Service by posting. If you don’t know where your spouse is, you can ask the court for permission to post notice at the courthouse. However, the state of California has special requirements for service by posting.

Your attorney will walk you through the best way to serve your spouse with divorce papers; this isn’t a decision you have to make on your own (or one that you need to make right now, for that matter).

Do You Need to Talk to a Stockton Family Lawyer About Divorce?

If you need to talk to a divorce attorney in Stockton, we’re here to help. Call us at 209-910-9865 for a consultation. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can begin developing the strategy that gets you the best possible outcome in your case.