What Are Florida’s Rules for Service of Process When Serving Divorce Papers?
If you or your spouse want to file for a divorce, you may be confused about Florida’s service of process rules. Our state has strict rules for service of process to ensure that the respondent spouse is given proper notice of the pending divorce action.
Whether you are the petitioner or respondent spouse, it is important to understand Florida’s laws for service of process to know what to expect. If the state’s rules for service of process are violated, the divorce case could be thrown out.
What’s the process of serving divorce papers in Florida?
Chapter 48 of the Florida Statutes specifies how divorce papers must be served when initiating the divorce process. The main rules for service of process are as follows:
- Divorce papers must be served on the respondent spouse (also known as the defendant) by the Sheriff in the county where that spouse can be located.
- While the Sheriff can complete the service of process in person, they can also designate other people to serve the divorce process on their behalf. The designated people must be certified to complete the service.
- The process server cannot leave the divorce papers in the mailbox. Instead, they must either deliver the paperwork to the respondent spouse personally or leave copies of the divorce petition at the defendant’s house.
- Divorce papers cannot be served by the petitioner spouse (the spouse who filed for divorce), even if they are still living together under the same roof.
- The process server can also serve the respondent spouse at work during work hours. In that case, they must contact the defendant’s employer and inform them of their attempt to complete the service of process. The employer is required to comply with the process server’s request. Otherwise, they could face a $1,000 fine for failure to comply.
- The respondent spouse cannot be served divorce papers on Sunday. If the service of process was completed on Sunday, the service would be declared void.
- If the respondent spouse currently lives out of state or relocated to another state, the process server must follow the rules for service of process in that state.
- If the defendant eludes service, the process server is permitted to leave copies of the divorce papers in the spouse’s home mailbox.
What to do if the respondent spouse cannot be located?
If the respondent spouse cannot be located or found to complete the service of process, you may be eligible for a “Divorce by Publication.” The process server can file an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry if the respondent spouse cannot be found.
The Affidavit is used to obtain constructive service in order to initiate the divorce proceedings without the respondent spouse. The process server will have to inform the judge of their unsuccessful attempts to locate and serve the defendant.
When the petitioner receives another affidavit stating that the legal notice was published in a local paper, the service of process is complete, and the spouse can get a Divorce by Publication
Consult with our Orlando divorce attorneys at Greater Orlando Family Law if you have questions about Florida’s rules for service of process or want to seek a Divorce by Publication because your spouse cannot be found. Call 407-377-6399 to schedule a consultation.