File and Serve the Forms
At that time, you pay your filing fee to the court or hand in the form to ask the court to waive the fee. The court may decide right away about waiving the filing fee. Or they may send you a notice in the mail.
For the case to go on, you must “serve” (or deliver) the court forms to your spouse (the Defendant).
In a divorce case without school-aged children, you are responsible for serving the papers to your spouse. In a case with school-aged children, the court arranges to serve the papers. Either way, it is a good idea to talk with the court clerk at your your local family court about what kind of service is likely to work best for your spouse. The clerk can also help you to make sure that you are including all the right documents.
You pay the costs of serving your spouse unless the court gave you a fee waiver.
The cheapest and simplest method in most cases is to mail the court forms to your spouse. You can choose:
- regular first class mail with a Notice of Action and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons form, or
- certified mail with restricted delivery and return receipt requested.
If you can't reach your spouse by mail, you may need to speak to the county sheriff in the county where your spouse lives or works. You can ask them to serve your spouse with the papers in person. If you got a fee waiver from the court, make sure the sheriff knows they will be paid by the court, not by you.
In some rare cases — for example if your spouse moved far away and you don't have an exact address — the court may give you permission to “serve them by publication.” This means putting an ad in the paper in the area where you believe your spouse lives. This is expensive and takes a lot of time — the ad needs to be in the paper for at least two weeks. If you got a fee waiver, the court pays for the newspaper ads.
The court needs proof of service to continue with the case. This means:
- a signed acceptance of service from your spouse or a certified mail return receipt, if you sent the papers in the mail
- a return of service form signed by the sheriff, or
- an affidavit from the newspaper saying what dates they ran your ad in the paper.