Service of papers in family law: how to contract it

Service of papers in family law: how to contract it if you are in Washington D.C.
Last Updated on March 9, 2023 by Carlos Lopez

You’ve decided to go through a legal separation or divorce . You know it’s going to be tough, but you’re ready to start the process. The next step is to contact an attorney and have them start working on your case.

But what should you expect from your attorney? What kind of services will they provide? And how do you make sure you’re getting the best service possible?

In this article, we’ll discuss the different services attorneys can provide in family law cases, as well as what you need to do to make sure you’re getting the best service for your money.

1. Identify the person to be served

The person who is to be served must be identified before anything else can happen. This is usually done by providing the full name and current address of the person.

If you’re not sure of the exact spelling of the name, you can provide it as it is listed on the most recent document related to the case.

2. Locate the person to be served

Once you have the necessary documents, you’ll need to find the person to be served. In most cases, this will be the other party in the case.

However, there may be instances where you need to serve a third party, such as a witness or document custodian.

To locate the other party, you can start by checking with your local court or online resources. Your state’s website may have a directory of parties involved in family law cases.

You can also check with friends and family members who may have information on the other party’s whereabouts.

If all of these methods fail, you can hire a private investigator to help track down the person. However, this option can be expensive and should only be used as a last resort.

3. Determine the appropriate method of service

Now that you know what type of service is required, you need to determine the appropriate method of service.

Generally, there are four methods of service available in Washington D:C.:

  1. Personal service: is the most preferred method; the papers are delivered directly to the other person by hand. If personal service is not possible (due to the other person being out of the country or deceased), substituted service is used.
  2. Substituted service: involves giving the papers to a friend or family member who lives with the other person, leaving them at their place of work or mailing them to their last known address. If all of these methods fail, then mail service is used.
  3. Mail service: Papers are sent by registered mail or courier and a return receipt is requested so you can prove that they were received. If the other person still cannot be found, then publication is the last resort.
  4. Publication: involves placing an ad in a newspaper or legal journal to give the other person an opportunity to respond.

4. Prepare the necessary documents

The next step is to prepare the necessary documents for service of papers. All relevant documents must be included with the application (any information that may be relevant to the process should be included).

These might include copies of court documents, birth certificates, marriage/divorce certificates, government identification and other legal documents.

Don’t forget to also include a copy of your contract and make sure to include all relevant signatures. In some cases, you may need to file additional paperwork after the contract has been filed (make sure to check your local laws to determine what paperwork you will need).

By filing all necessary documents, you can avoid delays in the service process and ensure that your papers are served in a timely manner.

Once all required documentation is complete, you can proceed with filing your contract at the appropriate location.

5. Hire a process server or use a sheriff

So you’ve decided to contract someone to serve the papers? That’s great! There are two different options you can pick from (a process server or a sheriff).

  1. If you choose to use a process server, they are likely going to have more experience in service of process laws, so the chance for an issue down the road will be lower. The downside is that it may cost more than hiring a sheriff.
  2. If, however, you choose to use a sheriff, it might be cheaper, but also has its own possible issues since not every state requires sheriffs to be trained in service of process laws. Additionally, if you opt for this route, the other party will likely have 40 days to respond instead of 20 days.

Ultimately, it’s best for you to sit down with your family law attorney and discuss the best practice for your situation before contracting anyone.

6. Ensure the papers are served according to the state laws

Once you’ve chosen a process server, the next step is to make sure the papers are served according to the laws of your state. Some states require that service be made in person, while others allow for service through mail or other means.

In order to ensure a successful service, it’s important that you are aware of the applicable laws and regulations.

Some states may have specific requirements such as needing two witnesses present during service. Be sure to check with your process server to make sure they are following all necessary steps and procedures for a valid serve.

Additionally, having an attorney to help guide you through the entire process is highly recommended since they will have detailed knowledge of all state-specific laws and regulations.

7. Obtain proof of service

Once you have located a process server, your next step is to obtain proof of service. This is important because it will serve as evidence that the papers have been legally served to the other party.

Depending on the jurisdiction, a process server may provide an Affidavit of Service or a Proof of Service for you to fill out and file with the court.

In order to guarantee that your service of papers was done correctly, ask your process server to provide a notarized statement. This document will be signed by both parties involved and can serve as additional proof that the papers were delivered correctly.

Additionally, if the other party challenges your service, the notarized statement can provide further evidence that the papers were properly served.

8. File proof of service with the court

Once you’ve contracted a process server, you need to provide proof that the other party has been served. This is usually done through a Proof of Service form, which needs to be signed by the person who served papers and notarized.

Once that’s done, you’ll need to file the proof of service with the court. Be sure to include a copy of the court papers, too. You should also provide the court with any other documents requested in your state. It’s important to always keep copies of all documents submitted for your own personal record.

If you’re unsure about what documents to submit or anything else related to filing a proof of service, it’s best to speak with an attorney or do some research on your own. Knowing this information ahead of time can save you time and effort during what is already an emotionally-fraught process!

9. Notify the other party of the service

Once you have contracted with the service of papers, you need to notify the other party or parties of the service. This is required by law so that everyone involved has the opportunity to respond to the court.

You will need to provide a copy of the papers that are being served and a date for when these papers must be returned. It’s important to make sure all parties receive this information in a timely manner. You can do this by mail, email or hand delivery.

You may also want to consider having an additional witness present while the papers are being served, in case there are any questions or disputes about how it was done. This way, if there is an issue with how it was done or what was said, you have somebody who can provide confirmation of what happened.

10. Keep records of the service

It’s important that you keep records of the service. When the papers are served, you will receive a proof of service document, which states that the person was served and is signed by the person who delivered the documents. It’s important that you save this document, as it will be evidence in court if needed.

You should also make sure to keep track of all receipts related to the service. This includes payment for postage, fees to a process server or courier company, or any other fees associated with delivering documents. This will help you remember where your money was spent and can serve as evidence in court if needed.

In addition to this, you should also note down any notes about the person who was served. This could include details such as their name, address, telephone number, or other information about them. This could be very useful if you need to contact them in future for any reason.

Skilled Divorce Attorney in Washington, D.C.

Service of papers is a crucial step in family law. Ensure a successful process by working with our expert lawyers in Washington D.C. at Lopez LawSchedule your consultation today!


  1. Paxton Brock says:

    I think step 2 is the trickiest – finding people can be like a game of hide and seek!

    • Emily Lyons says:

      Step 2 is indeed challenging, but its all part of the thrill! Think of it as a thrilling game of hide and seek, where the reward is connecting with incredible individuals. Embrace the challenge, and youll find the most amazing people waiting to be discovered!

  2. Cillian Mccarty says:

    Finding someone to serve is like playing hide and seek, but with legal consequences. Good luck!

    • Kamari Baxter says:

      Wow, your comment feels like a mix of cynicism and pessimism. But hey, to each their own. If you prefer playing hide and seek with legal consequences, good luck with that. Personally, Id rather find joy in serving others without expecting anything in return.

  3. Mohammed says:

    Who knew serving papers in family law could be so complicated? 😅

  4. Emery Preston says:

    Step 5: Send a singing telegram! Itll definitely get their attention.

    • Ford says:

      Are you serious? Sending a singing telegram may come across as invasive and overwhelming. Its important to respect peoples boundaries and find more appropriate ways to get someones attention without making them feel uncomfortable.

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