Welcome to FreeDivorce.com.
Christina: This is Christina.
Ed: This is Ed. Today, are going to talk about how to serve your court papers on your spouse. We are assuming you have already filed your Petition, Summons, and, if you have minor children, your UCCJEA declaration, with the court. When you filed those papers, the court clerk should have kept the originals and gave you back filed endorsed copies of each court form. You should have two sets of filed endorsed copies. One set is for your records and one set is for you to serve on your spouse.
Christina: Ed, exactly what papers are you going to need to serve on your spouse?
Ed: It depends on whether or not you have minor children by your marriage. If you don’t have minor children, you are going to serve your spouse with three court forms consisting of a filed-endorsed copy of the Summons, which is FL-110, a filed-endorsed copy of the Petition, which is FL-100, and a blank Response form, which is FL-120. If you have minor children, then you need to serve two additional documents. You need to serve a filed-endorsed copy of the UCCJEA, which is FL-105, and a blank UCCJEA form.
Christina: Can our listeners find blank copies of the Response, FL-120, and a blank UCCJEA in our court forms database?
Ed: Yes. Just pull up the blank forms from our forms database and print them.
Christina: How do I properly serve my spouse with the court forms?
Ed: There are two common ways to accomplish “service of process”. One way is “personal service” which is when you have someone personally hand your spouse copies of the Summons, Petition, and blank Response and then fill out a “Proof of Service of Summons” form. The Proof of Service of Summons form is FL-115. The second method of “service of process” is to use a “Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt”. This form is FL-117.
Christina: Let’s start with the “personal service” method. How does that work?
Ed: The “personal service” method is the simplest method and the method we recommend using. Again, the “personal service method” is when you have someone hand the Summons, Petition, and blank Response to your spouse. You cannot serve the papers on your spouse yourself because you are a party to the divorce action and parties to the action can’t serve papers. You need someone else that is at least 18 years old. You can have a friend or a relative hand you are spouse the papers.
Christina: Should I hire a professional process server?
Ed: Hiring a professional process server is an option if you don’t have a friend or relative that is willing to serve the papers for you. A professional process server will charge you around $75, sometimes much more, particularly if they have to make multiple attempts to get the papers served. You can Google “process server” and find a list of process servers in your area. If you hire a professional process server, ask them how much it is going to cost.
If your spouse is cooperating with you, there should be no need to hire a professional process server. Just contact your spouse and find out when it will be convenient for them to be home to receive the paperwork. Then, have a friend or relative serve the papers.
Christina: What do I do after I have a friend or relative serve the papers on my spouse?
Ed: After the papers have been served, go to our Court Forms Database and fill out the proof of service form, which is FL-115. After you have filled out the FL-115, have the person that served the papers date and sign the form.
Christina: What is the second method that can be used for the service of the process?
Ed: The second way to serve your spouse with the Summons, Petition, and blank Response is to use a form known as a “Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt”, which is FL-117. With this method, your paperwork is mailed to your spouse, and your spouse signs a court form acknowledging that they received the paperwork. You start by going to our Court Forms Database and filling out FL-117. This is a form you prepare, but your spouse signs.
After you fill out the FL-117 form, you cannot mail it to your spouse because, as a party to the action, you cannot serve the Summons or Petition. You need to find a friend or a relative that is at least 18 years old that is willing to date and sign the FL-117 form and put the form, along with copies of the Summons, Petition, and a blank Response, in the mail addressed to your spouse. The friend or relative signs the form on line #3, which is located in the middle of the form. When the paperwork is mailed to your spouse, you also have to include a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. When your spouse receives the forms, he or she dates and signs the FL-117 near the bottom of the form. Then, your spouse mails the signed FL-117 back to you in the stamped envelope that you provided. They have now been served.
Christina: After your spouse sends you back the signed FL-117 form, what do you do?
Ed: If you use the “Notice And Acknowledgment of Receipt” method, you will still need to complete the “Proof Of Service Of Summons” form, which is FL-115, after your spouse sends you back the signed FL-117. On the FL-115, instead of filling out the information for box 3(a), which is the part you fill out when you use the personal service method, you will instead fill out the information for box 3(c), which is for service by mail and acknowledgment of receipt. After you fill out the FL-115, you are going to attach to the FL-115, the completed FL-117.
Christina: Does our Court Forms database include completed versions of the FL-115 and FL-117, using both the “personal service” method and the “Notice And Acknowledgment of Receipt method”.
Ed: Yes. Our forms database has not only blank versions of the FL-115 and FL-117, but also completed versions as examples.
Christina: After I have filled out the proof of service paperwork, what do I do?
Ed: After you have completed your proof of service paperwork, make two copies and then file the original and copies with the court clerk.
Christina: After my spouse has been served, does my spouse need to fill out the Response form, FL-120 and file it with the court?
Ed: It depends. After your spouse has been served with the Summons and Petition, if the two of you are going to be able to work together and reach a negotiated settlement on all issues, then your case can proceed as an “uncontested divorce” or a “default with an agreement” case and there is no need for your spouse to fill out his or her Response form (FL-120) and file it with the court.
If your spouse wants to fill out the Response, which is FL-120, and file it with the court, then your spouse will have to pay the “first paper” filing fee, unless he or she qualifies for a fee waiver. If you and your spouse are going to be able to reach a negotiated settlement so your case will be uncontested, there is no need for your spouse to file a Response with the court and there is a way for your spouse to avoid the “first paper” filing fee. The method for your spouse to avoid paying the “first paper” filing fee is explained in a later video about processing a judgment as a default case with an agreement.
Christina: Wait a minute. If you look at the first page of the Summons, it tells the other party that they have 30 days after being served with the Summons and Petition to file a Response with the court, otherwise, the court can make all kinds of orders against that party.
Ed: If your case is going to be an uncontested case, your spouse does not need to worry about the notice printed on the Summons that says your spouse has 30 calendar days after the Summons and Petition are served in which to file the Response. You and your spouse can ignore the 30-day time limit if your case is going to be uncontested. The court won’t, on its own, do anything after the 30 days passes.
Christina: What if my case is going to be a contested divorce, does my spouse need to fill out and file the Response with the court within the 30 day period?
Ed: Yes. If your case is going to be a contested case because you and your spouse are not going to be able to work together and reach a negotiated settlement, then the 30-day rule is going to apply and your spouse should absolutely file their Response with the court within the 30 days, otherwise, you could take their default. If you take your spouse’s default, then the court can and will make orders affecting your spouse’s rights regarding property, custody, and support.
Christina: If my spouse wants to file a Response with the court, how do they do that?
Ed: If your spouse wants to file a Response, they can use this website to do so. The Response, FL-120, is nearly identical to the Petition, FL-100. Since the Response is nearly identical to the Petition, the same video guide instructions we provide in our “Initial Filings” video guides on how to fill out the Petition can be used by your spouse to fill out his or her Response and his or her UCCJEA declaration.