Serve papers by substituted service

If your server has made several attempts to serve legal papers on your spouse or child’s other parent, but they're never at home or work, your may be able to do substituted service.

What is substituted service?

Substituted service means that the papers are left with an adult who lives at the home or is in charge where they work (like a manager). Then, your server mails a copy of the papers to your spouse or the other parent's home or work.

How to serve by substituted service

  • Your server must try multiple times to deliver the papers

    Your server must try to personally deliver the papers to your spouse or child’s other parent a number of times. Generally, they must try

    • At least 3 times
    • Different days of the week and different times of the day, at times when your spouse or child’s other parent is likely to be home

    Your server will need to write down when and where they tried to serve the papers. 

    A judge can allow substituted service if you can show that the server made multiple attempts. 
  • The server hands the papers to someone else on the last try

    On the last try, your server can leave the papers with someone, at least 18, who seems responsible and lives at the house. If trying to serve papers at work, your server can leave the papers with someone at the office, at least 18, who appears to be in charge.

    Your server must tell the person they’re giving the papers to that the papers are legal documents and who the papers are for.

    Your server must also write down the name of the person they gave the court papers to. If the person will not give their name, the server must write down a detailed physical description.

  • Server mails a copy to your spouse or other parent

    Your server must then mail a copy of the papers to your spouse or child’s other parent at the address where the papers were left (either home or work).

  • Server writes and sign Declaration of Diligence

    Your server must write a Declaration of Diligence. This explains every time they tried to serve the papers. It must include the dates they went to the house or work, times of day, and what the result was (for example, “No one answered the door” or “not in the office”).

    Your server has to sign this declaration under penalty of perjury. There is no form for this, but your server can use a Declaration (form MC-030).

  • Fill out and copy Proof of Service form

    Fill out a Proof of Service of Summons (form FL-115

    In item 3(b), your server has to write the name of the person they left the papers with (or a detailed physical description). The server signs the Proof of Service and returns it to you, with the Declaration of Diligence


  • Copy and file Proof of Service

    Make a copy of the Proof of Service and Declaration.

    File the original and copy with the court where you filed the Petition. The clerk will stamp and return the copy to you.

    Keep the copy of the Proof of Service form for your records.

Once you've served the Petition, you've completed the first part of a your case. Service is complete 10 days after the papers are mailed. This means your spouse or the other parent has 40 days to file a response.

success alert banner:

Have a question about Divorce?

Look for a "Chat Now" button in the right bottom corner of your screen. If you don’t see it, disable any pop-up/ad blockers on your browser.