The divorcing spouse must legally notify their spouse by serving divorce papers. Here’s how to serve divorce papers in Texas.
What do Divorce Papers Entail?
Divorce papers are all the paperwork legally pertinent to the divorce, including background and procedural information.
Who Can Serve Divorce Papers?
A spouse can serve divorce papers in a variety of ways. Only spouses explicitly listed in the Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 103 can serve the papers. Only a person holding a position in criminal law enforcement, a person authorized by the court, or a sheriff can validly initiate divorce papers. The divorcer cannot serve the papers themself.
What Are the Initial Divorce Papers?
Initial divorce papers include the citation (which can be received from the clerk’s office when a spouse files a case), a copy of the Original Petition for Divorce, a copy of all other forms filed with the Original Petition for Divorce.
Do Initial Divorce Papers Need To Be Served to A Spouse?
When filing for divorce, the filing spouse must serve the initial divorce papers to their spouse. Unless a spouse is willing to fill out and sign a Respondent’s Original Answer form or a Waiver of Service form, the filing spouse must file the papers.
By What Means Are Divorce Papers Served?
Divorce papers can be served in person, by mail, via email, or social media (the last two methods for serving the papers are called substituted service).
How Can a Spouse Be Served With The Papers?
1. Personal Service
The constable, sheriff, or private process server will give the initial divorce papers to the spouse by hand. They must fill out a return of service form listing the time and location they serve the spouse. They must file the completed return of service form with the court or send them to the spouse initiating the divorce. The served spouse does not need to sign any forms.
2. Certified/Registered Mail Service With Return Receipt Requested
The clerk serves the initial divorce papers by mail and requests a return. If the spouse signs the return receipt and returns it to the clerk, the clerk will complete a Return of Service Form with the location and time they served the spouse. The spouse should complete the return of service form with the court or send the form to the person serving the divorce.
3. Substituted Service By Court Order
If the person serving the divorce papers does not serve the papers by mail or at their spouse’s residence, they must file for a Motion for Substituted Service so the judge can grant permission to serve the papers another way.
4. Service By Posting
If one cannot find the location of their spouse to serve them the papers, they can resort to service by posting if there are no children involved in the separation. Service by posting is essentially posting the request to serve the spouse with the papers, given that their location is unknown.
5. Service By Publication
If one cannot find their spouse’s location and have no children, they can resort to service by publication. Serving by publication publishes the request to serve and leaves the spouse being served with two years to request a new trial.