In yesterday's blog post, we detail the steps involved with providing notice of your divorce lawsuit through a process called to service. This is not a complicated topic, but it is vital to your case. Because of its importance, I recommend that you go back and read that post if you have not already done so.
Now that you have learned the ins and outs of personal service in a Texas divorce case, we can begin discussing the other methods of serving notice to your spouse that you have filed for divorce from them. The critical thing to keep in mind is that service is all about letting your spouse know what you are doing and providing them with an opportunity to respond to your Original Petition for Divorce.
The entire process that I outlined yesterday and will continue to detail today can be done by yourself, but it is recommended that you hire an attorney to walk you through the process and do the lion's share of the work him or herself. A pretty effective persuasive technique that I share with the folks who come into the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, for a free of charge consultation is that many of our clients started out representing themselves- until they discovered that the process was too time-consuming or difficult to continue on their own. Also, consider that any mistakes you make along the way will cost you time and possibly money.
To learn more about divorce, service, or get answers to questions you encounter after reading today's blog post. Please get in touch with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, for a free consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys.
Servicing divorce papers by registered or certified mail
While personal service is what is considered "best" by courts, you can serve your spouse with notice of your divorce in other ways as well. One of those methods is via the mail with a return receipt requested of having helped them.
Essentially, the clerk of your court will mail the divorce paperwork (Petition for Divorce, Temporary Orders and Citation) to your spouse by certified mail, return receipt requested. Service will be successful in this method if your spouse receives the paperwork and returns the ticket with their signature included to the sender of the documents. The clerk of your court will then complete a Return of Service form that details when/where your spouse was served. That return of service will then be filed with the other documents in your case file.
Remember that while this method may seem "easy" in practice, it rarely is. The reason being is that you must be sure that your spouse will sign for the certified letter. Often, another person can pick up the letter and toss it aside or even in the trash, never to be found. If your spouse's brother, roommate, or co-worker signs the receipt and sends it back, it will not count for effective service. The bottom line is that you can waste a lot of time waiting to receive word back from the court that your spouse was served.
Substituted service through a Court Order
In some instances, it is not possible or practical to serve your spouse with notice of your divorce filing via personal service or certified mail. For example, if your spouse resides outside of the United States or does not know where your spouse is geographical, sending a process server out to locate them without more information would be impossible.
In situations like this, you can petition the judge of your court for permission to serve your spouse with notice in other ways. To get this permission, however, you usually will have had to exhaust every resource you have available to you in serving them personally. This means researching where they are, contacting family and friends of your spouse, and having a process server attempt to help them at their last known addresses or work locations.
Your request for substitute service must be included with an affidavit that details your attempts at serving your spouse personally. Suppose you do know where your spouse lives or works, but you just haven't been able to help them at those locations personally. In that case, the judge can agree to allow a process server to leave a copy of the divorce papers with anyone at that residence over the age of 16. This is the most common alternative service method when you know where to locate your spouse.
Posting notice and Service by Publication
Two lesser utilized methods of service of your spouse are service by posting and service by publication. These methods are less used because the chances of providing your spouse with actual notice of the divorce are meager by either method. The law allows constructive notice to be completed via these methods, but this is a hypothetical notice provided to your spouse. It could be argued that your spouse managed to come across the petition posted on the courthouse steps or in the newspaper for their area. It is doubtful that actual, real notice has been provided to the extent that your spouse will be made aware of your having filed for divorce.
A pivotal distinction to draw is that service by posting is usually only allowed by judges if you and your spouse do not have any children together. A service attempt by publication is needed when you have children with your spouse. The reasoning here is that it is more likely that your spouse will be provided with actual notice by having your petition posted in a newspaper since, theoretically, it could be accessed on your spouse's driveway or at a corner store. Unless your spouse finds him or herself at the courthouse, posting there would likely alert your spouse to anything going on related to a divorce.
What to do with the rest of the documents you file in your divorce?
Once you have served your spouse with notice of your divorce petition and the court has given you credit for having done so, you do not have to go through all of these steps when you file additional documents in your case. The remaining documents can be served by you sending them directly to your spouse or their attorney via email, fax, or hand delivery.
At this stage, you will likely have hired an attorney to represent you in the divorce, and your spouse will have done the same. The practice of most family law attorneys is to file documents electronically, as many counties in Texas require it. The electronic filing platform allows your spouse's attorney to be provided a copy of the filing, so additional steps do not need to be taken to provide notice of other documents having been filed. In our office, if documents are filed or furnished to opposing counsel, our client is then offered a copy to review and ask questions about if necessary.
Can't locate your spouse? Come back to our blog tomorrow to read more about this subject.
As it happens, you may find yourself in a position where you do not know where your spouse is when you file for divorce. We touched on this possibility in today's blog, but we will cover the topic in more detail in tomorrow's blog post. The options available to you and the methods you can undertake to locate your spouse will be covered as well.
If you have any questions about the topics covered in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We proudly represent our clients across the courts of southeast Texas and would be privileged to speak to you about how we can help you as well.