When any civil lawsuit is filed in Florida, the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure dictate how the papers must be delivered to the opposing party (respondent). Divorces fall under the civil lawsuit category. The process for delivering legal papers is called Service of Process.
If you don’t follow the rules of service properly, your case may get thrown out and you’ll be forced to start over. So it’s necessary that you take this seriously and follow the rules for service of process. (If you hire an experienced divorce attorney like George Gelb, we will ensure service of process is completed properly so you don’t have to worry about it.)
How to Properly Serve Divorce Papers in Florida
Here are your options for serving divorce papers:
(Please note: some of these are simplified for the purposes of this post. Please call our office for a more thorough explanation.)
1. Serve the papers in person.
Service in person may be done by anyone approved by the county sheriff. The server must be over 18 years old and not a party to the case. The person serving the papers cannot be related to you or your spouse, but it can be your attorney or an employee of your attorney.
What papers must be served? A copy of the petition for marital dissolution and summons (signed by the clerk of the court) must be served upon the respondent.
Where do the papers need to be served? The papers may be served on the respondent personally, wherever he or she is. If the respondent cannot be located, the papers may be served at their residence or place of business, so long as the papers are left with a responsible person who is 15 years of age or older. The papers may not be left in the mailbox, on the doorstep, on the respondent’s car, etc.
2. Have the county sheriff serve the papers.
The county sheriff is authorized to serve divorce papers. You can give this form to the sheriff for instructions on service of process.
3. Hire a professional process server.
There are companies in each county who specialize in service of process.
4. If the respondent lives in a different county…
…. then you will need to have a private process server, or the sheriff in the county where the respondent resides, serve the papers. You can contact the circuit court clerk for the respondent’s county to be connected with someone who can properly serve them.
5. If the respondent cannot be located…
… then you may conduct what’s called “Constructive Service of Process.” This requires posting a notice that the respondent is being served in a local newspaper for 30 days. You will have to pay a fee for this and also must file an affidavit with the court stating you tried to locate the respondent and were unable to.
Please contact our office for a FREE Consultation and more information about how to properly serve divorce papers! (561) 748-8000