When someone wants to start a divorce proceeding, they need to formally serve process upon the other party. The divorce proceeding does not start because the couple has separated or because a court file has been opened. When the responding party receives the divorce petition from the initiating party, the divorce is officially pending.
Formal service of process is accomplished simply by handing the documents (Summons and Petition) to the responding party. It must be performed by an individual, age 18 or over, who is not a party to the proceeding. A spouse cannot serve their own spouse with the divorce papers. Typically, a courier, neighbor or family member serves the documents; these days, the involvement of a sheriff’s deputy for this kind of service is rare.
Alternatively, the responding spouse may admit or acknowledge service. The Admission of Service, which must be in writing, makes it unnecessary to involve a third party. Oftentimes, the initiating party will mail the documents to the responding party with a blank Admission of Service for the responding party to sign and return in the mail.