Types of Service for Divorce Cases under Georgia Law
If you are filing for divorce, one of the first steps you take will be serving the other party with the Complaint for Divorce, which will also need to be filed with the court. This is a formal legal process that ensures the other party will get the papers, meaning that you must follow one of the ways of service mandated by the court. The type of case you are filing will usually decide which method of service you should use, and you should always check that you are using the correct method, as it could be a factor in what the judge is within grounds to grant you in the case.
Types of Service Available for Divorce Cases in Georgia:
Acknowledgment of Service
The person you are filing against agrees to accept documents from you and signs a document called an Acknowledgment of Service in the presence of a Notary Public. This method of service is very common with uncontested divorce cases and sometimes used with contested divorces.
Acknowledgement of Service and Waiver of Venue
This method is the same as described above but must be used when the opposite side lives in a different county, state or even country than the case is filed. It is important to note that a Acknowledgement of Service and Waiver of Venue still has to be notarized. Most countries offer some type of notary service for papers signed abroad, and most courts will accept the notarization of documents from another country. A
This is used when the opposing side will not sign an Acknowledgement of Service. You must know either the current home address or work address of the opposing side. You can elect either to have a sheriff’s deputy or a private process server serve the divorce papers. Most contested divorce cases are served by a sheriff’s deputy, with a private process server only being employed when the individual to be served is evading service. Some courts require prior approval for a process server to be hired to serve divorce papers. All private process servers have to be approved by the court for service in the county the case is filed. lthough not required, is is usually best to employ a private process server that is a member of the National Association of Professional Process Servers (N.A.P.P.S.).
Personal Service by a “Second Original”
If the opposing party lives in another county or state and will not sign an Acknowledgement of Service form, a “second original” copy of the divorce petition must be served by the sheriff in the county where the opposite party resides. A “second original” is a second signed copy (not a photocopy) of the divorce papers, stamped with the court’s stamp showing the case number and the date he case was filed.
Service by Publication
If you are unable to locate your spouse or your spouse never lived in Georgia, then Service by Publication may be your only option. In this type of service method, you must prove diligence was done in attempting to find the other party and the search yielded no results. Publication in a newspaper must be done four (4) times over a sixty (60) day period, with publication at least seven (7) day intervals in a newspaper in the county where the divorce is filed. Service by publication should only be used when the other party to be served (the Defendant) cannot be located after a diligent search by the Plaintiff for him or her. Service by publication requires the completing of a motion, affidavit, the courts’s approval and the actual publication of a notice that the divorce has been filed to be effective. Publication of the divorce notice is done in a newspaper approved by the court; there is usually a different approved newspaper for each county.
Service by mailing the opposite party a copy of your petition via certified mail is rarely acceptable. You must fully understand the law for your type of case to discern whether this is a valid method of service. Certified mail can sometimes be used for international cases where no other form of service is available and with court approval.
Serving an Opposing Party who is in Prison or Jail
For this type of service, you must first determine in what county your case can be filed and then follow instructions for either Personal Service or Personal Service of a Second Original, depending on the jurisdictional limitations. Typically a warden, Sheriff or Sheriff’s deputy will serve someone who is incarcerated. This type of service is not usually difficult, as the Defendant is somewhat easy to find for the person performing the service.
Service by Private Process Server
If you do not want the sheriff to serve the papers on your spouse or you want to try and choose the specific time and location of the service, you can have a Private Process Server serve your petition. You can also choose to use a private process server if you think your spouse will try to avoid service. As stated herein, court approveal is usually required to use a private process server, which is some Georgia counties is easy to obtain and harder in otehrs.
If you have questions about the service of divorce papers in Alpharetta, Fulton County, or any other location for a case filed in Georgia, call us at 770-609-1247 to discuss with an experienced divorce and family law attorney.