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Serving Divorce Papers

To start the formal divorce court process, you must serve your partner with a summons and petition. This guarantees that he or she knows your purpose in initiating divorce proceedings and getting a formal decree of dissolution of your marriage.

Although serving divorce papers might appear to be a simple process, there are several ways the process can become stuck if it is not done in an appropriate manner.

Is it OK if You Act as the Server?

No. You could have your initial divorce papers served in various methods, but you cannot serve the documents yourself. You could either have a qualified adult relative or friend serve the papers for you, or you could pay a process server, your local police department, or sheriff’s department.

The person who serves the papers should be at least 18 years old and should not be a party in your action.

What is the Server’s Role?

The server must:

  • Provide your partner a copy of your legal papers in person
  • Complete and sign the Proof of Service on the backside of one copy of the summons form, and in front of a notary
  • File the Proof of Service, or have it returned to you to file with the court

Missouri does have service of process through “Acknowledgement of Service by Mail,” but this requires the person being served to return a signed acknowledgment form that acknowledges that he or she has been served. Should your partner fail to return the form, you must obtain personal service.

What if You Have No Idea Where Your Partner is?

If the server has attempted to serve your partner multiple times with no success, or if you are unable to locate your partner’s address despite diligent efforts, you may petition the court for authorization to finish service in another manner, such as service by publication.

To accomplish this, you must file a motion and demonstrate that you have made “good faith” efforts to locate your spouse. Note that if the court permits service by publication, it can greatly impact and limit your ability to recover things like maintenance or child support.

Employ an Attorney

The best course of action is to seek a qualified family law attorney to assist you in getting a divorce. Filing motions and trying to serve somebody with papers might not only be challenging but could also demand emotional energy and time that you do not have. You will have peace of mind knowing that your matter is properly handled if you hire an experienced divorce attorney.

The Jefferson City, Missouri, Family Law Attorneys at Call & Gentry Law Group can help. Contact their office today or fill out the online contact form to get started.