The first pleading in a family law case usually has to be served upon (not just mailed) the other party. In general, this means that the other party will need hand delivered the initial documents by someone of suitable age and discretion (This person cannot be a party to the suit.). (After a case has been initiated, some pleadings can be provided to the other party by mail, fax, or even email [upon agreement].) Service of the initial pleadings can set the tone of the case. There are some legal requirements for service, but these are not the only things to consider when serving the other party. Here are some other considerations:
- Where are your kids? If you are serving the other party, and you share children with that person, you will probably want to make sure they are served when the children are not present. It is unlikely that service in front of the children would ever help your case (or your kids).
- Where is the other party at the time of service? In family law cases involving money (which is most of them) you want to be sure that serving the other party does not negatively impact their ability to earn money. Getting served at work can be embarrassing, but it can also reflect negatively on the person being served. Others might not know that the service is in regard to a family law case, and may assume the worst. If the other party ends up out of a job, it can impact your case.
- Is the other party going to leave town? Service becomes more difficult if the other party is not in the state (and even more difficult if they are not in the country). If you know the other party is about to leave town, it is important to tell your attorney that at your first meeting. Your attorney may advise that you quickly draft initial pleadings and have the other party served before s/he leaves town.
- Is there another way? In some cases where parties agree that there is a legal issue to be resolved, parties can join in a petition. If the other party joins in the petition, there is no need to serve that person. This can avoid embarrassment for the party, and can start proceedings off amicably.
How and when someone is served is something you will want to discuss with your family law attorney. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this, or any other family law issue, with an attorney at our firm.