A divorce action is started when one party, the “Petitioner”, drafts or has an attorney draft a Summons and Petition. The Summons and Petition set out what the main issues will be in the case, and list pertinent information, such as addresses, whether there are minor children, and any real estate owned by the parties and affected by the action. The Summons and Petition are then personally served on the other party, known as the “Respondent.” This means that they are handed directly to that person by another adult individual.
Acceptance of Service
If the parties have discussed divorce and the non-initiating party is willing, they may avoid personal service by signing what is known as an acceptance or acknowledgement of service. If this is done, the papers can be given to the Respondent or even delivered by mail. The Respondent signs a form stating that they acknowledge that they were served and that they understand they only have 30 days to answer the Petition.
An acknowledgment of service is a good alternative for individuals who do not want a process server coming to their home or work. It is also used often when the parties have discussed the coming divorce action and they have discussed settlement terms already. This takes the extra step of personal service out and saves the additional expense for the Petitioner.
The next step in the divorce process depends partly on how likely it is that the parties will reach an agreement and partly on what county the parties live in. Some counties have procedures built in to the process that divert the parties to some form of mediation to try to settle the matter. In other counties, it could be months before any court date is set. However, if the parties are willing to negotiate, the settlement process can start immediately.