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What If My Spouse Evades Service of the Divorce Papers?


Divorce isn’t always mutual. In some cases, one spouse wants a divorce while the other refuses to cooperate. In Colorado, you can still get a divorce even if your spouse won’t sign the papers. If your spouse is in denial, however, you may have to deal with additional complications that delay the process. One of them is your spouse evading the service of the divorce papers.

About Colorado’s Required Service of the Divorce Papers

To file for divorce in Larimer County, you must submit the proper paperwork to the correct family court and pay the $230 filing fee. After filing, it will be your responsibility to arrange the service of the divorce papers on your spouse, who will become the respondent.

Serving the divorce papers means giving them or sending them to your spouse. This gives your spouse the opportunity to read over the papers and file a response. In Colorado, you must serve your spouse with a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage and the Summons. A summons is usually an order to appear in court; in divorce law, however, the summons gives the respondent 21 days to file a response.

If your spouse doesn’t respond, the courts can proceed with an uncontested divorce after 91 days have passed since the summons. Your spouse will forfeit the right to contest, or argue, the terms of the divorce without a response. If your spouse does respond, you can enter into negotiations to reach a settlement. If you cannot locate your spouse to serve the divorce papers, you will have to take other steps before you can proceed with your case.

Locating Your Spouse

In Colorado, you cannot continue your divorce case until your spouse has been served with the petition and summons. First, try to serve the papers yourself if you know where your spouse has been living. If this works, simply give your spouse the divorce papers and an Acceptance of Service Form. Your spouse will sign this form in front of a notary to prove that you served him or her with the documents.

If you cannot find your spouse or do not wish to serve the papers yourself, you can have someone from the Larimer County court system do so for you. In most cases, the sheriff or constable in your county will step in to serve the divorce papers on your spouse. This service could take two or three weeks.

If your spouse continues to evade the service and the sheriff cannot locate him or her, the next step is hiring a private party to serve the papers. The courts may appoint a professional process server on your behalf, or you can locate a private party through a family attorney. This party is usually a private investigator who will have the resources to try to locate your spouse.

Working Around the Service Requirement Through Publication

In a situation where you, the sheriff and a private investigator have failed to locate your spouse, the courts in Colorado will allow you to use service by publication instead. This is a last resort only to be used when you can show you made sufficient efforts to locate your spouse but could not. You must obtain permission from the family court judge to use this method.

Service by publication means you will need to publish a notice of the divorce summons in one or two local papers each week for three or four consecutive weeks. A judge will give you the exact directions to follow to serve your spouse by publication. Once you have fulfilled this requirement and submitted notarized statements from the newspapers confirming the notice was published, a judge will continue with your divorce case with or without cooperation from your spouse.

If your spouse is evading service of the divorce papers, consult with a divorce attorney in Fort Collins for assistance with the serving process. A lawyer can help you take all of the necessary steps to proceed with your divorce.

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