When you decide to file suit against another person, such as a Dissolution of Marriage, there is a strict protocol which must be followed in order to serve the other person with notice of the lawsuit. If you choose to handle all filing on your own, be aware that when service is not properly completed your lawsuit may end up being dismissed. If you choose to have a friend or family member assist you, you must ensure a Disclosure From Nonlawyer is completed. To give you an idea of the Florida family law forms which fall under “service,” you may want to read through the following forms and information about those forms. There are ten forms included under the Florida heading of “service.”
12.910(a) Summons: Personal Service on an Individual
12.910(b) Process Service Memorandum
12.912(a) Memorandum for Certificate of Military Service
12.912(b) Affidavit of Military Service
12.913(a)(1) Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage
12.913(a)(2) Notice of Action for Family Cases with Minor Child(ren)
12.913(b) Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry
12.913(c) Affidavit of Diligent Search
12.914 Certificate of Service
12.915 Notice of Current Address
Basic Summons and Process Service Memorandum
The first form, 12.910 (a) Summons: Personal Service on an Individual, allows you to notify the other person of the lawsuit you are filing, in a specific, legal manner. All other documents associated with your case will also require you to serve them on the other person according to Florida law. As an example, when you file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you will serve the other party with a copy of the Petition. You will either use the sheriff’s department or a private process server. You must serve the individual in the county where he or she lives, and there will be a fee for having the documents served. Along with the Summons: Personal Service on an Individual, you will need to provide the process server or sheriff’s department with a 12.910(b) Process Service Memorandum which gives them instructions for serving the other party.
This specific form tells the process server the best times to find the person at home and can include directions to the person’s home or place of employment. Both the Summons and the Process Service Memorandum must be typed, or filled out legibly in black ink. The originals should be filed with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you live, and you should always remember to keep a copy for your records. Of special note regarding the Summons and Process Service Memorandum, should you need to keep your address confidential due to a history of domestic violence, you must write “confidential” in the spaces provided for your address, telephone and other information and file a Petitioner’s Request for Confidential Filing
Forms Related to Serving a Person in the Military
If you are dealing with serving a person who is in the military, you are required to use special forms. Florida law form 12.912(a), Memorandum for Certificate of Military Service, is used when you know or don’t know whether the other person is on active military duty. It is important to note that even if you have a strong belief that the other person is not currently in the military and would not ever join the military, you must still show the court proof that he or she is not on active duty in any branch of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and members of the Florida National Guard called to duty for more than thirty days). This particular Florida family law form will provide the proof you need to satisfy court requirements.
Florida law form 12.912(b), Affidavit of Military Service, is required in every case in which the Respondent has failed to answer a petition or make an appearance in the case at hand.
The purpose of the Affidavit of Military Service is to protect all those serving in the United States military from having a judgment entered against them without receiving notification and having a chance to defend their case. In short, if you have properly served the other person named in your lawsuit—whether by personal service or constructive service—that person has failed to respond, and you are requesting a default judgment, you may be required to file an Affidavit of Military Service. You must sign the form before a notary public, and file the original with the clerk of the circuit court where you reside.
Forms Used in Family Cases When You are Unable to Have a Spouse Served Personally
If you are filing for divorce and have no minor children or are requesting financial support, Florida family law form 12.913(a)(1), Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage (No Child or Financial Support) may be required in cases where you are unable to have your spouse personally served or served through the mail. This is known as constructive service, or service by publication. Your spouse may live outside the state of Florida, or you may not know where he or she currently resides. If you are asking the courts to determine how your joint assets, located in the state of Florida, will be divided, you must include a Notice of Action which specifically describes the property in question. The relief granted through constructive service can be limited, because Florida jurisdiction is limited. You will also be required to file an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry along with your Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage (No Child or Financial Support).
In order to obtain constructive service in any case involving a parenting plan for a minor child, you will need Florida family law form 12.913(a)(2) Notice of Action for Family Cases With Minor Child(ren). This form can also be used to determine temporary custody by extended family and for termination of the legal father’s parental rights when another man is alleged to be the biological father. The parenting plan sets forth the continuing relationship between the parents regarding the many decisions which must be made on a continuous basis until the child or children reach the age of 18. If you are unable to have the other party served, you will use constructive service when filing the Notice of Action for Family Cases With Minor Children.
Diligent Search and Inquiry
If you find you are unable to have the person named in your suit personally served, when filing a Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage (No Child or Financial Support) or Notice of Action For Family Cases With Minor Children, you will need to file Florida family law form 12.913(b) Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry. As stated, the person named in a lawsuit is always entitled to notice of the proceedings, whenever possible. If you are unable to locate the other person, you must provide constructive notice through publication. You will be asked to provide the last known address of the other party as well as looking in a variety of places in a good-faith effort to locate the other person. In other words, you must be able to convince the court that you have made a very serious effort to locate the person named in your lawsuit.
Florida law form 12.913(c), Affidavit of Diligent Search, is used to notify a legal father of any actions to determine paternity which could, conceivably, result in parental rights termination for the legal father. This form is used in conjunction with Notice of Action For Family Cases With Minor Child(ren). The last known address of the legal father must be disclosed, and you must have proof that you have exhaustively searched for the legal father and have no choice other than constructive service through publication. The form must be signed before a notary public, then the original, along with the Notice of Action will be filed with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you reside. For both the Affidavit of Diligent Search and the Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, you must check which specific avenues you employed in order to find the person such as:
• Telephone listings in the last known location of the Respondent’s residence
• Highway Patrol records in the state of Respondent’s last known address
• Florida Department of Motor Vehicle records
• Regulatory agencies which would hold records of professional or occupational licensing
• Unions in which the Respondent may have worked
• Names and address of relatives and your contact with those relatives
• Criminal records in the last known area of the Respondent
• Last known employment of the respondent
• Any information regarding the Respondent’s possible death
• Internet databank locator services
Certificate of Service and Notice of Current Address
Florida family law form 12.914, Certificate of Service is used after a petition is served (whether through personal service or constructive service) and certifies that you have properly provided the other party with copies of all documents filed. Some Florida family law forms have a place above the signature line for this certification; if the form you are filing has such a certification you will not need a separate Certificate of Service. The final Florida family law form contained under the heading of “service,” is form 12.915, Notice of Current Address. This form is used to inform the clerk of the court as well as the other party in your lawsuit of your current mailing address, change of address, and your e-mail address. Parties who choose to represent themselves may designate an e-mail address for service. All forms must be typed or completed in black ink, and filed with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where your case is filed. You must always keep copies of any documents you file for yourself, and must complete service in accordance with Florida law.
How The Law Place Can Help
As you can see, ensuring proper service can be complex, time-consuming and stressful. You may have a friend or family member assist you in filing all necessary documents, however if you choose this route you must also obtain a Disclosure from Nonlawyer from that person prior to receiving such assistance. You may also choose to speak to a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney who can file all the necessary paperwork for your lawsuit as well as ensure that all persons are properly notified. The attorneys at The Law Place have the experience and knowledge of Florida family law necessary for your family law case and will use that experience to ensure all laws are properly followed and that your rights are protected every step of the way. Having an attorney from The Law Place by your side can greatly reduce the stress of filing a lawsuit, giving you the chance to take care of the other things in your life.