The first question every client has when initiating a divorce action is, “How long is this divorce going to take”. Unfortunately, that question does not have an easy answer. The answer is really “it depends.” It depends on a variety of factors, such as the length of the discovery process and the other side’s cooperation. However, the most essential party of the process, and what can potentially speed the process up, is service.
Service is the delivery of the divorce documents to the other side so that the individual is then notified of the pending suit. Delivery of the documents on its own, though, is not enough. You need to be able to provide proof that service was accomplished, which can happen in the following ways:
- the other side receives the documents and signs a document titled “Acceptance of Service;”
- the documents are mailed to the other side via certified mail, return receipt;
- send a process server to the individual’s house to serve the documents and then have the process server sign an “Affidavit of Service;”
- if the whereabouts of the other side are not certain, you can motion for alternative service, which is generally through publication in a newspaper of general circulation where it is believed the other side resides.
Now, why is service so important? For any lawsuit, the person being sued needs to be aware of the pending suit. That notice occurs via service. In a divorce action, service is incredibly important because the process cannot move forward without it. Until the other side is aware of the divorce proceeding, nothing can happen. For example, under 3301(c) of the Divorce Code, parties can sign affidavits consenting to the entry of a divorce decree. However, these affidavits cannot be filed until after at least 90 days after the date of service of the complaint. Furthermore, and most importantly, a party will be unable to obtain a divorce decree without proof that the other side was served. Without service, you are stuck.
At times, a person will try to evade service, either by not answering the door for the process server or not signing for the certified mail. However, no one can evade service forever and there are alternative methods, such as publication, to complete service. An experienced attorney will be to guide you though the process and advise you as to the best way to complete service.
If you are considering a divorce, schedule a consultation with the experienced attorneys at Curtin & Heefner, LLP.