“You’ve been served”: what it means and how it happens

server

“You’ve been served!.”

Picture this: a cheating spouse kisses a lover goodbye, leaves an illicit apartment and starts walking to work, when suddenly a man jumps out of the bushes, slaps paper in the hand and says “You’ve been served!”  This is how it happens in the movies but generally what does it mean?

The person-to-person delivery of a divorce summons is required under New York law.  Not only is your spouse on notice that the divorce is really happening (“I thought she was kidding!”), but the process confers jurisdiction (power or authority) over both parties so that the court may hear the case.

Generally, service of process isn’t very dramatic.  My process server for the typical uncontested (friendly) case will call your spouse and coordinate dropping off the papers.  This can be important because if the case is friendly, we don’t want to add the unpleasant surprise of a strange person showing up and causing stress or embarrassment.

But, there is another server that I reserve for difficult cases – one where embarrassment is part of package.  She likes to dress like the UPS delivery guy.  Once she even delivered flowers (along with the papers) to the spouse’s office.

How it happens can depend on your case.  The bottom line is we need to know where your spouse lives or works to get him or her served.

But life isn’t always that simple.  Sometimes a spouse may be gone either because the separation took place some time ago or because he or she just doesn’t want to be found.

Whatever the reason, in cases where you make a diligent effort to find a spouse and just can’t, the Court will permit you to serve the papers by alternate means (aka Alternate Service).  You can seek special permission to serve your spouse through publishing a notice in the newspaper.  This process carries takes extra time and may get pricey because you must pay the newspaper to publish your notice (you may remember those boring sections of the paper that have legal notices – yeah, that’s it!)

By server or newspaper, once your spouse is properly served the case can move forward.

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