What does it mean to “serve” the other party?

Once we meet and discuss the issues of your case, we will draft a formal Petition.  You may have a Petition for Divorce, or a Petition for Separate Maintenance, or a Petition for Parentage, or a Grandparents Rights Petition.  The type of Petition (or Complaint) will depend on your specific type of case.

Once we finish the Petition, the next step is to “serve” the other party with that paperwork.   This is usually done by a Sheriff or a private individual (over the age of 18), who is not part of your case.  Generally, a Summons will be served with the Petition.  Most of the time, the paperwork is served upon the other party in person.  Service of the paperwork can take place at a person’s residence or work, or anywhere where the other party is located.  Personal service can even take place at the local Walmart, if that is where the other party is shopping at the time of service.

This “service” (also called “service of process”) is required by the Court to prove that a party has notice of the Petition and the beginning of a lawsuit.  Service of process allows the other party to respond to the Petition against him/her.

Once the service of process has been effected upon the other party, the Sheriff or process server will file a “Return of Service” or an “Affidavit of Service” with the Court.  The “Return of Service” will indicate the date, time and documents that were served upon the other person.