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Waiver of Service in a Divorce

Why Do I Have to be Served?

When a family law case is filed, Texas law requires the person who files the suit (“Petitioner”) to notify the person against whom they filed the lawsuit (“Respondent”) that the case has started. The way to notify the Respondent is by serving them with a citation. A citation is the formal document issued by the court officially telling the Respondent that they are part of a family law case and have specific deadlines to meet.

Serving the Respondent generally means that a private process server, constable, or sheriff deputy will physically hand them the citation and the petition that started the case. This is a vital part of every family law case because the Petitioner cannot proceed with the case until the Respondent is officially notified that the case is happening.

The act of “getting served” has been extremely dramatized in TV and movies. In real life, it is not as intense as its media counterpart, but it can still be embarrassing to be served in public or at work, so many people prefer to handle this portion of the case as discreetly and privately as possible.

Can I Avoid Getting Served?

The easiest way to avoid the hassle of getting served or arranging a time to accept service is to sign a Waiver of Service. This is a document that informs the court that you are aware of the case, you received a copy of the petition, and you understand that the case will be moving forward. A properly executed Waiver of Service filed into the case record has the same effect as filing an Answer after being served with a citation. This means that the Respondent is telling the Court that they are going to participate in the case and want to assert their interest in the subject matter of the case.

The Waiver must be in writing and notarized. For a divorce case, the Waiver must include the Respondent’s mailing address. It is very important to remember to get the Waiver notarized or it will not have any legal weight. The only Respondents who can sign a Waiver of Service with an Unsworn Declaration (not notarized) are Respondents who are in jail or prison at the time they sign the Waiver.

What Should I Look Out For?

If the attorney for the Petitioner presents you with a Waiver of Service that they drafted, you should read through it carefully to make sure that you are not giving up any rights that you would otherwise have as a Respondent. Generally, you should only sign a Waiver of Service that says that you are making a general appearance in the case, that you want to be notified of all hearings and trials in the case, and that you do not want the Court to sign any orders without your signature.

You should also be aware that the other party will be able to see your Waiver of Service so, if you have any safety concerns or any other reason for not wanting them to have your address, you should consider arranging to accept service from the process server instead.

What Happens After I Sign a Waiver of Service?

Once you sign the Waiver of Service, you should make sure it gets filed into your case with the Court.  After signing and filing the Waiver, you should contact the attorney on the other side to discuss the next steps in the case and begin working toward a resolution of the issues involved.

If someone is trying to get you to sign a Waiver of Service and you have any reservations, call Hunt Law Firm and we will go over all of your options with you. We have the expertise and resources to walk you through your situation and ensure that your interests are fully represented.

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