Service Of Process In North Carolina

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After summoning up all of the requisite courage and inner strength to pursue a long-desired divorce, hire an attorney, and file the complaint at the courthouse, now you have to formally serve the summons and complaint on your spouse. This is done through a process called service. Why is this required? The purpose behind the rules regarding service is that the person being sued deserves to have a chance to know of the suit and to have an opportunity to defend her or himself in court. A case will not move forward until the defendant has been properly served, and this must be done within the time limits. Improper service could lead to dismissal of your case. Keep in mind that you cannot serve the summons yourself.

In North Carolina, you can effect service through 1) registered (certified) mail, return receipt requested, with actual delivery to the person being served; 2) through acceptance of service by your spouse through his or her attorney; or 3) through the use of a sheriff, law enforcement officer, or in certain circumstances, a private process server, who will attempt to serve your spouse in person. In North Carolina, private process servers are still not required to be registered or licensed, though it is recommended that you hire a registered process server.

When you choose to use certified or registered mail with return receipt requested, you should receive a green card in the mail that your spouse should have signed after receiving the papers; check this to ensure that it has actually been signed. If you use a law enforcement officer, you may give her or him hints about where your spouse could likely be found at certain times of the day.

What if your your spouse cannot be found, or if she refuses to sign for the papers? In this case, provided that you have diligently pursued the previous methods, you may resort to service by publication. For this, you will have to place a notice in an approved newspaper of the county where your spouse last resided, once per week for three successive weeks. There are a number of nuances required here and for this method, seeking an attorney's advice is preferable.

If you have questions and would like to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer, please contact our Concord, NC office.


Rule 4(j) from the North Carolina's Rules of Civil Procedure (North Carolina General Assembly)

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered or substituted as legal advice.