Serving Divorce Papers on your Spouse

When you file for divorce (or child custody, etc.) in South Carolina you must serve a Summons and Complaint on your spouse before the Family Court will have personal jurisdiction over them and be able to grant you a divorce.  So, how can your spouse be served?  There are several ways all of which are governed by the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure and South Carolina Family Court Rules.

Acceptance of Service

First, in many no-fault or uncontested divorce matters, the defendant spouse will come to your lawyer’s office and pick up the papers voluntarily and sign a document called an Acceptance of Service which is an affidavit to the Court stating that your spouse has freely and willfully accepted the divorce papers.

Service by Certified Mail

The second option is for your spouse to be served by Certified Mail.  If you are serving your spouse by Certified Mail it must be sent Return Receipt Requested and Restricted Delivery.  The return receipt will allow you to prove to the Court that your spouse received the documents and the restricted delivery means that only your spouse can sign for the papers and not their roommate or someone else at the home.

Personal Service

The third option is to serve your spouse personally.  That means a process server will take the divorce papers and hand them to your spouse.  This is done at their home, work, or other place and is proven by the process server filing an Affidavit of Personal Service stating the date, time and location of the personal service.  Sometimes this is the only way to serve someone because they are intentionally trying to avoid being served papers and they will not accept the certified mail.  When serving your spouse in this manner neither you, any other person who is a party to this action or your lawyer can act as the process server.

Service by Publication

Finally, if you are unable to locate your spouse and you have made a good faith effort to find them, you can petition the Court for permission to serve your spouse by publication.  This means you will run a Summons and Notice of the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in the place where your spouse was last known to reside.  This notice will run one time per week for three weeks.

Now that your spouse has been served the case has officially begun…


  1. Mary Fernandez says:

    What if my spouse is in rehab in another state? We have been separated since March 21, 2012 and have agreed to be divorced. He is willing to sign the papers, but is held in a rehab facility in Georgia. How can I serve him the papers?

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