How to Serve Divorce Papers in Florida?

Serving divorce papers in Florida is generally an easy process. When you file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage–your divorce petition– with the court, the court clerk will issue a summons. You must take a copy of the summons and the divorce petition to the local sheriff’s office or to a special process server. If you do not know the location of the sheriff’s office or the address of a process server in your area, this information can be obtained from the court clerk. When you give the summons and divorce petition to the sheriff or process server in Florida, you will also need to provide whatever information you have about your spouse’s whereabouts–including last known address and place of employment–so that your spouse can be located and personally served. If you are seeking alimony or child support, you will also need to serve a copy of a financial affidavit on your spouse. The sheriff’s office or process server will attempt to serve the summons and petition on your spouse. In order for your spouse to be served, the summons and petition must be given to him personally by the sheriff or process server, or, if your spouse is not home, the summons and petition can be left at your spouse’s address with a household member is older than fifteen years of age. The sheriff or process server will charge a fee for serving the divorce papers on your spouse.

If your spouse cannot be found or if you do not know where he or she lives and works, you can still initiate your divorce proceedings through a procedure known as “constructive service of process.” In order to constructively serve your spouse, you will need to file a form called an “Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry” with the court. In this affidavit, you must detail all the efforts you made to locate your spouse and/or determine where he or she works or lives. These efforts may include checking telephone and online directories, consulting information available with the local tax assessor or office of voter registration, and contacting your spouse’s friends, family members, and former employers. You must swear to the truth of the statements that you make in your affidavit, and your signature must be notarized. A judge will question you about the efforts you made to find your spouse. If the judge decides that you have tried hard enough to to discover your spouse’s address, then you will be allowed to file an Affidavit for Service by Publication. You must then send a Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage, which states that you have filed a divorce petition against your spouse, to a newspaper that is published in the Florida county where you have filed for divorce. The notice must be advertised in the newspaper once weekly for four consecutive weeks. You must pay the costs of publishing the notice. After the notice has appeared in the newspaper for four weeks in a row, the judge will grant your divorce. Unfortunately, you cannot be awarded alimony or child support from your spouse unless your spouse is served personally because service by publication does not suffice to give the court personal jurisdiction over your spouse. However, if your spouse’s whereabouts are determined at a later date, it may still be possible to reopen your divorce proceedings to resolve matters relating to alimony, child support, child custody, and division of property and debts.

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