In addition to filing the necessary paperwork, in order to get a divorce from your spouse in North Carolina, your spouse must be properly served with the paperwork and given notice of the divorce proceedings. In other words, filing for divorce is just one step in the process, and your divorce is not instantly effective upon filing documents at the courthouse.
What are the commonly used methods of service of process in North Carolina?
If you intend to file for divorce from your spouse, it is important to know where he or she is currently living or another location where he or she can be found. Once you have filed the summons and complaint (and other accompanying documents that may vary by county), the following are two commonly used methods of service of process available under North Carolina law:
- Service by Sheriff: Pursuant to the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, you can serve your summons and complaint through the sheriff of the county where service is to be made (either where your spouse is living or a location where they can be personally found, such as his or her place of work). For example, if your spouse lives in Wake County, then you can serve your summons and complaint on your spouse through the Wake County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office requires that you pay a $30 fee in order for them to serve documents on your behalf. Once your spouse is served, the sheriff will return a signed copy of the summons listing the time, place, and manner of service to serve as proof that your spouse was properly served.
- Service by Certified Mail: Pursuant to the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, you can serve your summons and complaint by sending them to your spouse via registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to your spouse. If you choose this method to serve your spouse, you must file an affidavit with the court proving that service occurred by attaching proof of delivery by the U.S. Postal Service and the return receipt.
What if my spouse lives in a different state?
If your spouse lives outside of the State of North Carolina, other methods may be available. Outside of the State of North Carolina, the Rules allow any person who is not a party to the action and not less than 21 years old to serve a summons and complaint upon your spouse. Or, any person who is duly authorized by the laws of the state in which your spouse lives may serve the summons and complaint; for example, you can pay an authorized process server from another state to serve the summons and complaint on your spouse if he or she is living in that state. An affidavit must be filed showing place, time and manner of service, the person’s qualifications to make process under the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, that the person making process identified your spouse, and that the person making process delivered the documents to your spouse and left a copy with him or her.
What if I can’t find my spouse?
If all else fails, it is possible to serve your spouse by publication – but only if you have tried with due diligence to serve your spouse through all other acceptable methods first. Service of process by publication consists of publishing a notice of service of process by publication once a week for three successive weeks in a newspaper that is qualified for legal advertising in accordance with North Carolina law, and that is circulated in the area where you believe your spouse is located. If you do not have any reliable information concerning your spouse’s location, then you may use a qualified newspaper that is circulated in the county where the action is pending. If you serve your spouse by publication, you must file an affidavit with the court showing the circumstances warranting the use of service by publication, and information, if any, regarding your spouse’s location. Service by publication is often a last resort and is not as commonly used as the other methods described.
To learn more about what is required in the divorce process, you should speak with an attorney. Call The Doyle Law Group, P.A. today at (919) 301-8843 to set up an initial consultation with one of our knowledgeable North Carolina divorce attorneys.
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