How to Serve Divorce Papers

Serving divorce papers on a defendant is one of the mandatory stages of the marriage dissolution process. If you do not complete it, the court will not continue the proceedings; as a result, your dissolution of marriage case may be dismissed, and you will have to resubmit documents to restart it.

If your spouse does not agree to waive the official service, you will have to find someone who serves divorce papers in the state. These can be a sheriff, a private process server, or any other person unrelated to the case.

How are divorce papers served in Indiana? There are several options for delivering paperwork to the respondent, and we will present them in this article.

What Does It Mean to Serve Divorce Papers?

The process of serving the divorce paperwork is a mandatory step of notifying the defendant that you have started a divorce by filing with the court as a petitioner.

What does “to serve papers” mean? Literally, it means handing over the documents that you have submitted to the clerk’s office to the other spouse.

After you have prepared the necessary papers and filed them with the court, you must inform your spouse of the lawsuit. In other words, you need to deliver the documents to them so that the second party to the case can get acquainted with your requests for divorce addressed to the court and the date the respondent has to appear at the hearing.

How long does it take to serve divorce papers? Depending on the service method you choose and the location of the other spouse, delivering paperwork can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Handing over the documents in person is usually faster than serving the respondent by mail.

How much does it cost to serve divorce papers? The cost of the procedure can vary from case to case. If your spouse agrees to accept the papers without being served officially, you will be able to handle this step for free; if not, you may need to spend $5 to $30 or more.

What Papers Do You Have to Serve?

To serve papers on the defendant in Indiana, you should prepare a copy of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the Summons.

A Petition for Dissolution is needed for the respondent to familiarize themselves with the divorce terms stated by the petitioner. A respondent can then file an answer or a counterclaim on it depending on whether they agree with the requests to the court. The Summons is necessary to provide information about the place and time of the court hearing.

When serving papers for divorce, you may need other paperwork to hand over to the respondent, which can include a Settlement Agreement and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, a Motion for Final Hearing, etc.

Different Ways to Serve Divorce Papers

In Indiana, there are several methods of how to serve divorce papers on the defendant. Let’s analyze each of them in more detail.

Waiver of Service

If your spouse agrees to avoid being served by a private process server, sheriff, or other person, you can serve the papers on them yourself. However, it is only possible if they sign a Waiver of Service of Divorce form and accept the paperwork voluntarily.

What is a waiver of service in divorce? This is a form that must be filled out and signed by the defendant who receives the divorce papers after the plaintiff begins the proceedings. In it, the respondent needs to indicate what documents and when they have received. Once the form is signed, the petitioner should file it with the county clerk’s office. Most often, this method is used in uncontested cases where spouses wish to cooperate and seek to speed up the divorce process.

Service by a Disinterested Party

If your spouse refuses to sign a Waiver of Service, you will need to serve them with the divorce paperwork in person or by mail. Since you cannot deliver the papers yourself, you may ask the other person to transfer the documents to the defendant. According to Ind. R. Trial. P. 4.12, you can serve the papers on the respondent within or outside the state through a disinterested person appointed by the court, provided they are over 18 and not a party to the case.

Service by the Sheriff

In other states, you will likely need to contact the sheriff’s office to ask them to serve the other party with divorce papers. In Indiana, you may avoid going to the sheriff’s department; you can ask the court clerk to give the papers that must be served to the sheriff or deputy and pay the filing and service fee together.

The sheriff serving divorce papers can hand over the documents to your spouse at their place of residence or work. After the paperwork is received, the sheriff must complete a Return of Service of Summons form indicating the place and time of delivering the documents to the defendant.

Service by a Registered Process Server

Another option to serve papers may be to hire a private process server. First, you will need to check the list of court-approved servers in your county at the clerk’s office. After that, contact the chosen server to transfer the papers and pay the fee. It may be more expensive than the cost you have to pay when the paperwork is delivered by the sheriff.

Serving documents by a registered process server is most suitable for cases where petitioners may have difficulty notifying the other party about divorce. Private process servers have more time and resources to search for defendants whose location is unknown or who are hiding from receiving paperwork.

Service by Mail

If you are interested in “Can divorce papers be served by mail in Indiana?”, the answer to the question will be affirmative.

You can deliver the paperwork to the respondent by registered or certified mail with the return receipt requested, which should then be filed with the court clerk. Serving the paperwork by post is one of the cheapest options to transfer the papers; however, it may take more time than handing the documents in person.

Service by Leaving the Papers

According to Ind. R. Trial. P. 4.1 and Ind. R. Trial. P. 4.12, a copy of a Petition for Dissolution and Summons may be left at the place where the defendant permanently resides. In case the sheriff leaves documents at the respondent’s dwelling place, they must indicate the address they use to deliver the paperwork in a Return of Service of Summons form.

This method of service may not be appropriate if you are unsure where your spouse lives or if their location is unknown.

Service by Publication

Notifying the respondent of divorce by publication is one of the alternative ways of service. Spouses can use it if they do not communicate with the other spouse or do not know where they live. If you can’t find the other party to give them the papers, the court may allow you to inform them of the lawsuit by publishing a notice in the local newspaper.

To get the judge’s permission to do so, you will need to submit a request for using an alternative service method to the court along with supporting affidavits stating that the location of the defendant is unknown and you make an effort to find them. According to Ind. R. Trial. P. 4(E), if the respondent is served by publication, the Petition for Dissolution is not required to be published.

To proceed with the case in court, the notice in the newspaper must be printed at least 3 times (Ind. R. Trial. P. 4.13). If the other party does not answer, you can ask the judge for a default divorce.

If none of the service options in a divorce is suitable for your case, the court may issue an order to serve the papers on the respondent in a different manner at the request of either party (Ind. R. Trial. P. 4.14).

Informing the other spouse about the beginning of the divorce process is an important stage required for the continuation of proceedings. In Indiana, there are several methods of serving a defendant that you can use depending on the circumstances of your case.