One of the first things you typically need to decide in a divorce is whether you want to serve papers. This step shows your hand, so to speak, so most people consider it a strategic as well as a procedural element of divorce.
If you are considering serving your spouse, especially if there are significant assets in your marital estate, you might want to understand the process first. This article should give you some general information.
What is “serving papers”?
As explained by the Texas State Law Library, serving papers is equivalent to giving someone formal notice that you are suing them. In other words, when you serve papers to your spouse, you are providing notice of your divorce.
The technical term for this is “Service of Process”. Since it is part of court procedure, you will need to follow the steps that apply to your unique situation.
How do you serve divorce papers?
You have a variety of ways to serve your spouse, but please keep in mind that you need to use someone whom the law authorizes. Simply telling your spouse that you intend to get a divorce, even in writing, will probably not be sufficient.
After you get court-approved help and prepare your documents, you can serve. In order of least difficult to most, your options could include:
- In person or certified mail
- Email or social media (substituted service)
- Posting or publication
In general, your previous attempts have to fail before you move on to the next method. For example, you would not try emailing before you tried an in-person service.
Serving papers essentially starts the divorce. If your spouse did not know of your intentions, it can be a very emotional process — as well as a gesture that triggers problematic behavior, such as hiding assets.