Filing for divorce generally includes (1) filing the necessary paperwork with the appropriate state or county court; (2) paying the filing fee; and (3) having the paperwork properly served on your spouse—known as service of process. This paperwork generally consists of a complaint or petition that includes the names of the spouses, the grounds for the divorce (fault or no-fault), whether there are children involved in the marriage, and whether the spouse is seeking child custody, child support, or spousal support.
To properly deliver the divorce papers to your spouse, the law generally requires that the papers be served on your spouse by being handed to them in their physical presence. This service of process must be performed by someone who does not have an interest in the case—often a private process server or constable. This means that one spouse cannot personally serve the other spouse with the divorce papers.
The purpose of service of process is to put your spouse on notice that they are being sued for divorce and to provide the court with jurisdiction over your spouse so that orders issued by the court are enforceable against your spouse by contempt and other legal processes. The court already has jurisdiction over the spouse filing for divorce because the spouse has submitted or agreed to the jurisdiction of the court by filing the lawsuit for divorce.
A spouse being sued for divorce will often waive service of process, eliminating the need for the interruption and lack of privacy when a process server serves the spouse at their home or place of work—and also eliminating the fee for a private process server. Waiver of service of process requires a written agreement and is often accomplished through the spouses’ attorneys, with the divorce papers being sent directly to the other spouse’s attorney.