Step 3:  'Serve' Your Court Forms (Give the Other Person Copies)

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California law requires that your spouse or partner be given formal notice that you have started a divorce or dissolution of a registered domestic partnership case. This is called "service of process," and it is very important. In fact, the judge cannot make any decisions until the other spouse or partner has been properly "served."

To view a short video called “Service of Process”, click here


Who can serve the court papers?

Someone over 18 (for example a friend, relative, the Sheriff, or a professional process server) who is not involved in the case in any way must serve the court forms for you.

How are court forms served?

There are two ways copies of the documents filed with the court can be "served". These are:

  • Personal service. (A person over 18 who is not involved in this case hands copies of the forms to your spouse or partner)
  • Service by mail. (A person over 18 who is not involved in this case mails copies of the forms to your spouse or partner by first class mail)

What Needs to Be Served?

Your spouse or partner must be served a copy of ALL of the forms filed with the court. This includes:

  • Petition-Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Form FL-100) for a marriage or domestic partnership
  • Summons (Form FL-110) for either a marriage or registered domestic partnership
  • Any temporary orders you may have asked the court for
  • Any property declarations you may have filed
  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (if you have children) (Form FL-105/GC-120)  
    See the instructions for this form.
  • A blank Response Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Form FL-120) for a marriage or domestic partnership; and

  • Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (Form FL-117)
    Two copies and, if you use service by mail, you must include an envelope addressed to you with first class postage. The respondent must send one copy of the receipt to the court, and must send one copy to you.

Who has to be served?

  • You must serve your spouse or partner, as well as
  • Anyone else who is involved in the case.

For example, you must serve the welfare office if you, your spouse or partner, or a child of this relationship is on welfare (or has applied for welfare and you are waiting for it to start.) 

If any of you is receiving (or has applied for) welfare, you must also serve a copy of your filed forms on the local child support agency's office in the county where the benefits are being paid. (The local child support agency can be served by mail.)

You may need to consult an attorney:

There are special rules you must follow if you are having a difficult time serving the court forms. For this reason, you might consider hiring an attorney to help you if:

  • You do not know where your spouse or partner is
  • Your spouse or partner is in the military
  • Your spouse or partner is in jail
  • Your spouse or partner lives in another state, or
  • If you are having a difficult time serving the forms for any other reason

After the papers have been served:

The person who serves the court forms must fill out the:

  • Proof of Service (Form FL-115

Once this is finished, he or she will give you the form, and you must make and keep one copy for yourself, and file the original copy of this form with the court. 

For information on how to do this, click here.

ALERT! Your case will be delayed if you do not serve your spouse or partner, or do not file the "Proof of Service" with the court.



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