How to Serve the Custody/Paternity Papers

After you open a custody or paternity case, the next step is to make sure the other parent is “served” with the papers. It is up to you to make sure that the other parent is served. Visit this section to learn about how to have the other parent served, and what to do if you do not know where the other parent can be found.

The Court does not serve the papers for you.  It is up to YOU to make sure the other parent gets served or your case will be dismissed and you will have to start all over.

Copy bw What to serve the Defendant.  There are 2 or 3 forms that have to be served. 

Deadline 2 bw When to serve the Defendant.  If you don't serve by the deadline, your case will be dismissed. 

Taking Oath bw Who can serve the Defendant.  Only certain people are allowed to serve Defendant. 

Personal service bw How to serve the Defendant.  Defendant typically has to be served in person.  

Questions bw Ifyou can't find or serve the Defendant.  Learn options if Defendant cannot be served in person. 

Learn more about each below. 

 

Copy bw What to serve

The other parent must be served with the following:

  • A copy of the filed Complaint for Custody/Paternity
  • A copy of the Summons.  Make sure your summons has a clerk's signature on page 2.  If it doesn't, get a proper summons issued by the clerk before serving. 
  • A copy of the Joint Preliminary Injunction (if you filed one)

Keep the originals!

 

Deadline 2 bw When to serve the Defendant

Your documents must be served within 120 days after you file the complaint. If the other parent is not served within 120 days, your complaint will be dismissed and you will have to start all over.

If you cannot get the other parent served within 120 days, you can ask the Court to extend the time for service. You can use the following forms to ask the judge to extend the time to serve.  Fill out both; file the declaration with the court, and submit the order to the judge for review.

Extend the Time to Serve - Request (pdf fillable) 

Extend the Time to Serve - Order (pdf fillable)  

 

Taking Oath bw Who can serve the Defendant

The papers must be served by a "disinterested person." This means someone who is not a party in the case, not interested in the outcome of the case, and who is at least 18 years old. Family members and significant others (boyfriends/girlfriends) cannot serve the documents. You can ask a neutral person to serve the documents, or you can hire the sheriff or a private process service to serve the documents for a fee.  Visit the Sheriff’s Civil Process Section for more information on their fees and services.

CAUTION!

Some judges require a licensed, professional process server to serve the documents.  Find out from the department assigned to your case if the judge requires this.  You can find a list of phone numbers to each judge's department by clicking here.

Can I serve the Defendant?

You can serve the documents yourself ONLY IF the Defendant is willing to waive formal service by signing a form and returning it to you. You have to give Defendant a copy of the documents, along with a notice and a waiver.  

If Defendant signs the "Waiver of Service of Summons and Complaint," Defendant will have additional time to file a response to your papers.  You must file the waiver with the court.  All of the forms and detailed instructions are in the packet below:

Waiver of Service of Summons and Complaint Packet (pdf fillable)

 

Personal service bw How to serve the Defendant

The other parent must be personally served with a copy of the documents. This means someone must hand-deliver the documents to the Defendant in person. The other parent can be served anywhere – at home, at work, etc.

Whoever serves the Defendant must complete an Affidavit of Service stating when, where and what documents were served on the Defendant.

Affidavit of Service (pdf)  Affidavit of Service (pdf fillable) 

If you use the sheriff or a private process server, they may have their own form to complete as proof of service.

File the affidavit with the court to show that the other parent was properly served.

 

Questions bw If you can’t find or serve the Defendant

You must do everything you can to locate the other parent and have them served in person.  However, if Defendant is evading service or cannot be found, you have two options:

If you can contact Defendant but don't have an address, request Alternate Service 

You can ask the judge for permission to serve by alternate means, such as through email, social media, by texting the documents, etc.  If the judge allows you to serve by alternate service, you will have to send the documents through every method the judge identifies on the order.

  1. Fill out and file these forms (by mail or efiling):

    Ex Parte Request to Serve by Alternate Means (pdf fillable)
     
    Affidavit of Due Diligence (pdf fillable)

  2. Fill out the order below and email it to the department assigned to your case.  To do this, find the letter that your case is assigned to (for example, Dept C, Dept F, etc.).  Insert the department letter where the _ is in the following email format: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and send it by email.

    Order to Serve by Alternate Means (pdf fillable)

  3. If the judge allows alternate service, fill out this form and file it after you serve Defendant by the methods ordered: 

    Proof of Alternate Service (pdf fillable)

 

The full packet with all forms and instructions is below if you prefer to print and fill it out by hand: 

Alternate Service Complete Packet with Instructions (pdf)

If you cannot find Defendant at all, request Publication

If you have no contact at all with the other parent and don't know where to find him/her, the judge expects you to do everything possible to try and find them.  Contact friends, family members, employers, coworkers, or anyone who might know where to find Defendant. Search for Defendant online through social networking sites and by email. You can also check the Post Office for forwarding information. Check with any source that might lead you to a good address. This is called doing your “due diligence.”  The judge will want to see you tried as many avenues as possible to find Defendant.

If you still cannot find the other parent, you can ask the Court for permission to publish the summons in a newspaper instead.  You may also have to mail the documents to a last known address if you have one. You will have to detail all of the efforts you made to find Defendant.  

  1. Fill out and file these forms (by efile or mailing): 

    Ex Parte Motion for Publication (pdf fillable)
     
    Affidavit of Due Diligence (pdf fillable)

  2. Fill out the order below and email it to the department assigned to your case.  To do this, find the letter that your case is assigned to (for example, Dept C, Dept F, etc.).  Insert the department letter where the _ is in the following email format: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and send it by email.

    Order for Publication (pdf fillable)

  3. If the judge allows publication, you will need to contact the newspaper indicated in the order and arrange for publication.  When publication is completed, make sure the Affidavit of Publication gets filed.  If the judge ordered you to mail the documents to Defendant's last known address, do so and fill out and file the Certificate of Mailing below: 

    Certificate of Mailing (Publication) (pdf fillable)

 

The full packet with all forms and instructions is below if you prefer to print and fill it out by hand: 

Publication - Complete Packet (pdf)

Publication - Complete Packet (pdf fillable)