How To Serve Divorce Papers In California


Getting a divorce can be an emotionally charged and stressful process. In California, as in other states, there are specific legal procedures that must be followed, one of which is serving divorce papers to your spouse. This is a key step in initiating the divorce process. The Orange County Divorce Attorneys at Irwin & Irwin will guide you through the process of serving divorce papers in California, addressing any concerns or questions you might have.

Understanding the Importance of Proper Service

Serving divorce papers is a legal requirement and an essential step in the divorce process. It involves providing your spouse with a copy of the divorce papers you have filed with the court. Proper service ensures that your spouse is informed of the pending divorce action and has an opportunity to respond. Failure to properly serve your spouse can result in delays and additional expenses, and may even require you to start the process over.

Preparing the Divorce Papers

Before you can serve the divorce papers, you must prepare them. The first step in the divorce process is to file a Petition for Divorce (Form FL-100) with the court. This document includes information about you, your spouse, your children, and any arrangements you are requesting, such as child custody, spousal support, and division of property. Generally, you will file your divorce papers in the county where you or your spouse currently reside.

Additionally, if you are concerned about how to protect your assets before a divorce, it is essential to consult with a family law attorney who can provide guidance on this matter.

Methods of Service

There are several ways to serve divorce papers in California:

  • Personal Service: This is the most common method of service. It involves having someone, other than yourself, hand-deliver the divorce papers to your spouse. The person serving the papers must be at least 18 years old and not a party to the case.
  • Service by Mail: This method involves mailing the divorce papers to your spouse via registered or certified mail with a return receipt requested. Service by mail requires a notice and acknowledgment of receipt from the Respondent.
  • Service by Publication: This method is used only as a last resort when you cannot locate your spouse after making diligent efforts. It involves publishing the divorce notice in a newspaper approved by the court.

Special Circumstances

There may be situations where the usual methods of service are not applicable. For example, if your spouse is out of the country or cannot be located despite diligent efforts. In such cases, you may need to seek permission from the court to use an alternate method of service, such as service by publication or service by posting.

Completing the Proof of Service

Once your spouse has been served with the divorce papers, the person who served the papers must complete a Proof of Service form (Form FL-115). This form verifies that your spouse was properly served. It must be filed with the court to move forward with the divorce proceedings.

What to Do if Your Spouse Does Not Respond

Your spouse has 30 days from the date of service to file a response with the court. If your spouse does not respond within this timeframe, you may request a default judgment from the court. This means that the court may grant your requests without your spouse’s input.

Seeking Legal Assistance

The process of serving divorce papers and proceeding with a divorce can be complex and emotionally draining. It is important to seek legal guidance to ensure that your rights and interests are protected. At Irwin & Irwin, we compassionately guide our clients through the legal process, making their needs and goals our priority. We provide the highest quality legal services and work together with our clients as a team to make informed decisions. Additionally, we make every effort to settle matters by negotiation first, minimizing the stress and expense of litigation. However, our clients know that we have the experience to take their cases to trial whenever necessary. Divorce mediation is another option we offer to our clients as a way to resolve issues amicably.

Remember, it is always advisable to consult with a family law attorney who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific situation. At Irwin & Irwin, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.