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You may have heard the phrases "getting served" or "served papers" when talking about a lawsuit. What does this mean?
"Service of process" or "service of citation" is a necessary step of any lawsuit. It is where someone is given formal notice that they have been sued. It is not enough just to tell someone that they have been sued. You need to follow the procedures listed in the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
There are several ways to serve someone with divorce papers. Only people listed in Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 103 can serve the papers. This includes a constable, sheriff, or other person authorized by the court or by law.
Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 106 requires that the process server first try to deliver the papers in person or by certified mail.
You can ask the court to serve them in another way if trying to serve them in person or by certified mail didn't work. Texas rules now let you serve people by e-mail or even social media. This is called substituted service.
If you are not sure where your spouse is, you must first try very hard to find them. You should ask their friends, family, and former employers. You can try writing to them at their last known address.
Other places to check:
In order to be able to serve them in another way, you will need to swear to the court about all of the ways you have tried to find them.
If you have tried very hard and cannot find them, you can ask the court to let you serve them by posting or publication. Service by posting is where a notice of the divorce suit is posted at the courthouse. Service by publication is where notice is printed in a newspaper that meets certain requirements.
Note You cannot serve by posting if there are minor children involved in your divorce. If you have minor children and cannot find your spouse, you must serve by publication.
You need to hire an attorney to look for your spouse if:
This kind of attorney is called an attorney ad litem. The clerk in your county will maintain a list of people who you can hire as an attorney ad litem in your case.
According to TexasLawHelp.org, serving someone who is incarcerated is not much different than serving anyone else. The important part is knowing exactly where they are located.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice's State Counsel for Offenders says it is best if the outside party files the divorce petition. The person who files the suit usually must testify at the divorce hearing. It is very difficult for someone who is incarcerated to get a bench warrant to appear at the hearing to testify.