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Was I served with divorce or custody papers?

There is a word that's thrown around and that's called service. Service is the formal notice that you are a party to a lawsuit. It is required by the Constitution that you be informed that if someone's suing you, even if it's for a divorce. In the divorce context, the most common way service is done is by a Sheriff or a private processor physically handing you a document through hand delivery. And that is service. However, I sometimes have clients tell me, well, my husband served me with these papers by handing them to me himself, and that's not service. You're a party to the lawsuit. So if it was a divorce action, the husband handing the wife the divorce papers is not service because he's a party to that case. My husband emailed me the paperwork I've been served. Email is usually not a method of service.

But what about if my spouse left the country? I have no idea where he is. How do I give him notice? You can ask the court for permission to do unique and interesting service attempts when the circumstances require it. It's possible in a divorce case that you could be handed what's called a waiver of service, which is a document that if you sign it, you are waiving your right to service a process. It's important to know that those documents can also include waivers of other things, such as right to notice of any hearings or trials, and it's important to really know what you're signing before doing so. Those documents also must be accompanied by the actual document that was filed with the court. Otherwise, it's ineffective. But it's important to know that when you receive documents, either informally from your spouse or formally from a process server, that something's going on and you need to take action on it.