The start of a divorce case in all 50 states involves a two-prong process. First, a petition for divorce is filed. Second, the divorce petition is served, or formally delivered, to the spouse not filing for divorce. All states permit the non-filing spouse to waive service of the divorce paperwork, if she so desires. Although each state has its own process through which a party to a divorce may waive service, there are some common characteristics.
Purpose of the Citation
The citation, called a summons in some states, serves a crucial function in a divorce case. As a practical matter, the citation notifies a person that his spouse has filed for divorce. From a legal standpoint, the service or delivery of the citation on the non-filing spouse brings him under the jurisdiction of the court. The law requires that a court obtain jurisdiction over a person before it may issue any order affecting his person or property.
Process for Waiving Service of Citation
Despite some minor variations from one state to another, the process for waiving service of a citation is simple. The court clerk maintains a waiver of citation form. The waiver form states that the defendant, or respondent, in a divorce case was given the petition and other paperwork associated with the case by the plaintiff, or petitioner. The waiver advises that the defendant voluntarily enters her appearance in the case and submits to the court's jurisdiction. The defendant signs the form, typically in the presence of a notary public. After signing, the form is returned to the court and filed by the court clerk, concluding the waiver process.
Effect of Waiving Service of Citation
Waiving serving of the citation allows the court to begin issuing orders that affect the interests of the defendant. The defendant cannot complain at a later date that the court does not have jurisdiction over him because the sheriff, or some other duly designated individual, did not serve divorce papers on him.
Failure to Waive Service of Citation
The failure to waive service of the citation requires the sheriff, or another duly designated individual, to serve the petition and related documents on the defendant on the plaintiff's behalf. Generally, the court cannot proceed until this is accomplished.