Serving divorce papers can be a very easy process for some individuals. These individuals are often the ones who had a previous conversation with their spouse and both sides agreed that a divorce is in their best interest. Unfortunately, for most couples, the process isn’t as easy. The reason is that most divorces occur because of a hardship in the relationship. Cheating, an abusive or lying partner, or a mere lack of interest are all logical reasons to ask for a divorce. That said, if your partner is abusive or controlling, for example, you likely began the divorce process without them knowing, and serving the papers could be something that scares you.
Luckily, you don’t have to deliver the papers personally, and in most states––you can’t. Instead, there are several different ways to serve divorce papers, and we’re going to help you understand your options. If you’re searching for more information, continue reading our guide below.
One of the most common ways to serve divorce papers across the nation is through a county sheriff. If you or your attorney don’t ask for an alternate way to serve the papers, most judges default to ordering a sheriff to handle the service of process. Illinois judges default to a sheriff because it’s outlined in Illinois law section 735 ILCS 5/2-202(a) which states that “the process shall be served by a sheriff.” While it’s less common, the same section also indicates you could use a county coroner.
Although a sheriff, county coroner, or even a private investigator are common ways to serve divorce papers, if they have any relation or interest with the defendant, they’re prohibited from serving the papers. In the event that your spouse worked in public safety or local government, it’s possible that they have a relationship with the county sheriff or coroner. In order to avoid a conflict of interest, the judge will likely order an alternate individual to serve the papers.
Although it’s a more expensive option, private process servers are a great option in the event you need to ensure the server is absolutely uninterested. Private process servers are often used in the scenario where your spouse has a large network, especially locally. Additionally, your spouse may know what’s happening if a sheriff arrived in uniform, so private process servers often arrive undercover.
In some scenarios, the judge may grant you the option to have a friend, coworker, and potentially a family member to serve the divorce papers. Although, as you may expect, the problem with having one of your friends or colleagues delivering the papers is they clearly have an interest in the case––your interest. Although, the judge will ultimately make the decision if they want to grant your confidant the service of process duty. Furthermore, the individual delivering the papers must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old. While a county official or private process server will deliver the papers directly to your spouse, your colleague may have the option to leave the papers with an alternate recipient. The recipient must be a family member or resident and at least 13 years old, the individual must inform the recipient of the contents of the subpoena.
If your spouse isn’t nearby, your attorney may suggest serving the papers via certified mail with tracking. Certified mail keeps you safe and requires your spouse to sign when they receive the documents. Furthermore, serving divorce papers via certified mail also includes a formal order for your spouse to respond within a designated time frame. Your attorney will determine the appropriate time frame. If you’ve been trying to get a hold of your spouse, the time frame will likely be shorter. On the other hand, if certified mail is your first attempt to serve divorce papers, they may request a response within two weeks or more.
In more serious cases, some spouses will do nearly anything to avoid court time, including running and relocation. If your spouse moved away or is trying to avoid your attempt to summon them to court from other serving methods, you may go to local publications. However, you’ll need to have an idea where your spouse is in order to serve them through a local newspaper. By working closely with your attorney, you should be able to find a way to locate your spouse and find a local publication. You’ll need a copy of the newspaper section along with a formal statement indicating the duration of the notice and provide the information to the court as proof of service.
Every divorce case comes with a different relationship history, and there’s no such thing as a “perfect case.” That said, if there was such a quixotic case, you’d serve your spouse with the aid of a county sheriff, but our experience tells us that’s not always the case. The reason you’re asking for a divorce can be the fact that you weren’t a good match for each other. On the other hand, the divorce may be necessary due to your spouse being abusive or unfaithful.
Additionally, money is one of the most common reasons for a divorce. In fact, a scenario we often see involves wealthy individuals. Our clients’ spouses might be very wealthy and successful, and they could attempt to hide money from our client, which is unacceptable. While there are many different ways to serve divorce papers, these affluent individuals often do whatever they can to avoid giving up their wealth. In order to help you choose the best method for the process of service, a great attorney will spend time with you to better understand you and your spouse’s behavior. Unfortunately, not every law firm works in your best interest and they’re merely interested in reaching a settlement, but not all firms work under such principles.
If you’re looking for an experienced family law attorney in Illinois, Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP is for you. Our attorneys come with extensive experience and always work with your best interest in mind. We understand that a divorce comes with many questions and uncertainties, and our attorneys are more than capable of answering all your questions. Furthermore, if your divorce involves children, we have extensive experience in handling cases involving child support and child custody. If you have questions or would like to make an appointment, contact our team today. We look forward to representing you.