Simply put, service is extremely important in a California Divorce! If service is done incorrectly, the courts will reject it. Remember, a Divorce in California takes a minimum of 6 months and 1 day from the date of service. If service is not done correctly, the time period for the Divorce does not begin!
Since a Divorce is a lawsuit, it must follow the court rules for lawsuits. One of the rules is that the other side must be given a copy of the Petition. This is called ‘service’.
Service can be done in a number of ways:
- by mail
- by another person over the age of 18 years (not a child of the marriage) which is called ‘personal service’
- by a process server, also called ‘personal service’
- by certified mail if the spouse lives in another state
- by publication if the spouse’s wherabouts are unknown
Be advised that a spouse cannot serve his/her spouse! The most reliable service is PERSONAL service which means that someone over the age of 18 years (not the spouse or child of the marriage) hand-delivers a copy of the papers to the spouse.
The most important aspect of service is whether the spouse is ‘cooperative‘. If the spouse is cooperative, he or she does not try to avoid service and generally wants the divorce to proceed. In this instance, the spouse will follow directions and sign the ‘notice and acknowledgement‘ or ‘proof of service’ as is needed.
If the spouse is not cooperative, he/she may not devulge the correct address or will not sign the proof of service. If another person or a process server attempts to serve, the spouse may not answer the door or may do other avoidance tactics. These tactics are futile, as service will be made eventually. In California, if one spouse wants a Divorce, he/she will get it no matter what the other spouse does!
Service can be more difficult if the spouse lives in another country. Many countries are part of the Hague Convention and as such there are very stringent rules regarding service. It can take as long as 2 years and can be very costly. However, if the spouse is cooperative service may be expedited. Issues such as children and/or property can complicate this kind of Divorce. A Divorce Attorney or Family Law Lawyer can advise based on the specific situation.