How to Serve Divorce Papers in Tampa Florida
In Florida, divorce papers, including the initial divorce petition and other related documents, must be properly served to the other party in accordance with the state’s legal requirements. Proper service ensures that the other party is formally notified of the divorce proceedings and has an opportunity to respond.
There are many benefits of filing for divorce first. You will have more time to prepare, you can gather important evidence in your case, and you can protect any potential windfall you expect to receive in the future. Still, when filing for divorce, there is a certain procedure to follow and the laws regarding this procedure are very strict. The divorce process starts with filing the paperwork with the court, which then must be served to your spouse. Below, one of our Tampa divorce attorneys explains how to serve the divorce petition on your spouse.
Service of Process Law in Tampa
Chapter 48 of the Florida Statutes outlines the law for the service of process. The most important laws contained within this chapter are as follows: Note that defendent and respondent are used interchangeably.
- The sheriff in the county where the non-filing spouse lives must serve the divorce papers.
- However, special process servers appointed in accordance with this section shall be authorized to serve process in only the county in which the sheriff who appointed him or her resides, and may charge a reasonable fee for his or her services. Please note that we do not use the sheriff to serve divorce petitions or any petitions upon respondents. Instead we rely on process servers to serve the papers, as do most attorneys and law firms.
- The sheriff can serve the divorce papers themselves, or they can appoint someone else, such as a deputy sheriff, to serve the papers on their behalf.
- The sheriff or their proxy must personally serve the defendant, or an adult 18 or over in the same household, but they cannot leave the divorce papers in a mailbox.
- Divorce papers can only be left in a mailbox if the defendant attempts to elude service. An example would be where a respondent runs away from the process server or refuses to come to the door when he or she is known to be in the house. The service can be disputed.
- The filing spouse cannot serve their partner with the divorce papers, even if they share the same residence. However, if the respondent is agreeable, he or she can sign an acceptance of service, which includes copies of the petition and documents filed with the petition.
- A defendant can be served divorce papers at their place of work, but the process server must notify the employer of their intention to do so. Employers are obligated to comply with the request, or pay a $1,000 fine.
- If divorce papers are served on a Sunday, the service will be deemed void.
- When a defendant has relocated to another state, the rules for process service must follow the rules of that state.
After serving the divorce papers, the process server normally is the one who completes an Affidavit of Service or Return of Service form. This form confirms that the papers were properly served and should be filed with the court. Also, if the respondent signs an acceptance of service then it will be filed in the Court by the petitioner, or the petitioner’s divorce attorney.
The above laws only apply when the location of a defendant is known. There are times, though, when the filing spouse cannot locate their spouse. In these instances, there are still certain laws that must be followed.
Service of Process When a Spouse Cannot Be Located
If you cannot locate your spouse, you may be able to get a divorce by publication. To start this process, you or a process server must attempt to locate the respondent by completing an Affidavit of Diligent Search, and if he or she cannot be found, the process server must file the affidavit to secure constructive service with the court. This means the divorce papers are considered to be served, even when they have not. Within the affidavit, the process server must swear under oath that they have tried to locate the defendant but were unsuccessful.
The filing spouse must then publish a weekly notice in the newspaper for four consecutive weeks. Once these requirements have been met, the filing spouse can then proceed with the divorce.
Our Tampa Divorce Attorneys Help with Service
Serving divorce papers may seem like a small detail in your divorce case, but it is a very important part of the process. At All Family Law Group, P.A., our Tampa divorce attorneys can make sure your papers are served properly, or help you respond if you are served. Call us now at 813-672-1900 or contact us online to request a free consultation and to learn more. Trusted since 1997! Se habla Español.