Step 2: Arrange personal service on the respondent

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The petitioner must arrange for someone – preferably a professional process server – to give documents to the other spouse, so that they know the divorce process has been started. This is called ‘personal service.’ Petitions for Divorce have to be served in all cases.

  • This service must be done within six months of the Petition being issued by the court. If this time runs out before the other party is served, you will have to start over. This includes paying the filing fee again.

If you don’t know where your spouse is

If you don’t know where your spouse is, you should speak with a lawyer for advice. You are expected to take all reasonable steps to locate your spouse to have them served with notice of the divorce. If you still can’t find them, there are ways to deal with this situation, but it makes the process more complicated. You may have to make a separate application to the court to ask for permission for ‘substituted service’ – meaning, you’re asking the court for permission to perform the service in some other way. Only a judge can give you permission to serve the petition on the respondent in a way other than by personal service. You will have to prove to the judge that you tried everything you could to locate your spouse – saying ‘they moved and I don’t know where’ your spouse is will not be enough in most cases.