Service Of Process For Divorce In Texas
There are six main steps in the divorce process in Texas: filing a petition for divorce; formally notifying the non-filing spouse of the divorce; agreeing to temporary orders; learning about assets and debts through discovery; negotiating a final settlement; and finalizing the divorce. This article will focus on the second step – formally notifying the non-filing spouse of the divorce. The process in which divorce documents are to be served are outlined in the Texas Family Code and the Texas Rules for Civil Procedure.
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Obtaining the Proper Documents
After filing a proper petition for divorce and retaining an attorney, the next step would be to formally notify the non-filing spouse of the divorce or properly serving the divorce documents to that spouse. This step is monumentally important in order for the rest of the divorce process to go smoothly.
When filing a divorce petition, the local district clerk will be able to provide a citation form (a one-paged document). That document should be attached to the very front of the petition. The citation form provides instructions of relevant deadlines and subsequent steps to the non-filing spouse. It is important to note that the state of Texas provides distinct forms depending on whether the spouse lives in the same county in which the petition is filed, or elsewhere. It is greatly important to indicate to the local district clerk the county in which the non-filing spouse lives.
Also, the clerk will provide, upon request, a copy of the Information for Service of Process document. This form will be completed with the information that would indicate the physical appearance and location of the non-filing spouse.
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Serving the Spouse
When all proper documents are gathered, it is then appropriate to present the documents (which include the citation and the Information for Service of Process form) to the sheriff. It is important to note that the location of the sheriff must be in the county in which the non-filing spouse resides.
It is then the duty of the sheriff to search for the non-filing spouse as by the information provided in the documents. Generally, the sheriff will then locate and present the non-filing spouse with the documents.
Upon service, the filing-spouse will receive a receipt in the mail declaring that the non-filing spouse has been served. This receipt should then be filed with the court.
What if the Non-filing Spouse is not Located?
There are situations in which the sheriff will be unable to locate the non-filing spouse for service. This scenario is common – oftentimes, the non-filing spouse will be aware of an oncoming divorce and will attempt to avoid it for as long as it is possible.
In this circumstance, the filing spouse will be able to file what is called a “special motion” with the court. The filing spouse will then be able to obtain special permission from the court to serve the spouse through other means. The judge will be able to provide the filing spouse the ability to serve the non-filing spouse through means of certified mail or even through public notice in the newspaper. Upon approval, the judge will likely issue the order instructing the non-filing spouse through what additional means service may occur.