When you file suit against another person, the law requires that person be notified of the lawsuit in a specific manner. This is known as “service.” Subsequent documents in the case will also require you to have the documents served in the manner set forth by Florida law. Form 12.910(a) (Summons, Personal Service on an Individual) is the Florida law form you will need if you are planning to file a family court lawsuit—such as a divorce—against another person. There are two basic ways to ensure another person is properly notified of your suit. The first is through personal service, and this is the preferred method under Florida Law. You can read through the instructions on your own, seek help from a nonlawyer, or speak to an experienced Florida family law attorney from The Law Place. Should you choose to proceed on your own, it is important that you carefully follow all instructions or your suit could be dismissed.
Under the personal service method the documents must be personally served on the other person by either a deputy sheriff, or by a personal process server. The documents must be served directly to the person, or to a person who is over the age of 15 who lives with the named recipient. Personal service is required under Florida law for all petitions, which cannot be served via mail or hand delivery. The most common method of personal service is by the sheriff’s department in the county where the receiving person lives, however you can hire a private process server who is certified in the county in question. You may be able to find a private process server in the yellow pages or online, and the fees for either sheriff’s department service or private process service will vary.
Form 12.910(a) must be filled out completely, either typed or written legibly in black ink. The forms you are filing—such as a Petition for Dissolution—the Personal Service on an Individual form and any necessary accompanying forms must be filed with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you live. The clerk will sign the documents and give you copies. You will then be responsible for delivering copies of the papers to be served, the summons and the process service memorandum to the sheriff’s department or private process server who will then complete service on the person in question. In some counties you will need to provide the sheriff’s department with a stamped envelope, addressed to you so that proof of service can be provided, although in others, this proof of service may need to go directly to the clerk of the court.
If the person you are serving lives in the same county, you can ask the clerk about specific procedures regarding process service. If the person you are serving lives in another county, then the service must be made by the sheriff’s department in that county or a private process server in that county. If the person you are filing suit against cannot be located or lives in a state other than Florida, you may be able to serve the other party through publication. This is also known as constructive service. It is important to remember that Florida courts are given only limited jurisdiction over those living outside of the state; as an example, a Florida judge may be able to grant a divorce, but unable to address child support, division of assets or spousal support.
If the person you are attempting to file suit against did live in Florida, you should include in your petition a statement saying “Respondent last lived in Florida from ______ to ______.” If you are unable to properly serve the other party within 4 months of filing your lawsuit, your suit may be dismissed without compelling reasons as to why service was not completed. If the other party is properly served, and neglects to file a written response with the court within 20 days service, you may be entitled to a default judgment.
If you choose to receive help from a person who is not an attorney (called a nonlawyer) you must obtain a copy of Disclosure from Nonlawyer prior to receiving such help. The nonlawyer is required to provide name, address and telephone number at the bottom of the last page of each form he or she helps you complete. Ensuring another person is properly served can be extremely complex and may require the services of a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney. The lawyers at The Law Place have been helping those in need of legal assistance for over two decades. While it can be confusing to determine what forms you need as well as the legal process for filing the documents, this is what we do, every single day. An attorney from The Law Place will ensure all your documentation is completed accurately and file properly, saving you the stress of worrying about proper service. Call our office today for a comprehensive evaluation of your particular family law issue.
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Florida Family Law Forms
Florida Family Law Forms—Service