Some legal documents need to be delivered using what is called “Personal Service”.  Personal Service of Summons and Petition for Divorce are required to start a Minnesota divorce proceeding.  This is also known as “being served divorce papers.”

Personal Service can be achieved in one of two ways:

  1. The Summons and Petition are hand-delivered to the spouse by a third party (typically a commercial process server or a civil sheriff’s office).  For example, most attorneys use a commercial process server/courier.  Once the courier hand-delivers the documents to the opposing party, personal service is complete.  The process server subsequently signs a notarized statement stating that on the particular date, he/she personally served the Respondent (receiving spouse).  This document is referred to as an “Affidavit of Personal Service.”  This document is filed with the Court along with the other divorce documents and the Affidavit of Personal Service serves as proof that the other party was personally served.
  2. Another way to achieve “Personal Service” in a Minnesota divorce case is to have the receiving spouse sign a notarized document that states that on a certain date, he/she received the Summons and Petition for Divorce.  This document is referred to as an “Acknowledgment of Service.”  Basically, this certifies that the spouse admits that he or she was served with the initial divorce paperwork.

It is important to note that the Court will not recognize certain forms of personal service.  For example, one spouse cannot personally serve the other spouse in their divorce proceeding.  Similarly, any person under the age of eighteen (18) cannot perform the function of personal service.  It is important to note that personal service is only required when the initial documents are served on the other party; in other words, any other paperwork once the initial divorce paperwork is personally served can be delivered via mail, e-mail or fax.

Choosing which of the two options to use in a given case is a strategic move.  It is preferable to send the initial paperwork to the receiving spouse via mail and request that they sign the Acknowledgment of Service within a certain time period.  This ensures that the receiving spouse is not caught by surprise or embarrassed if he or she is served at a public place.  It also promotes the prospect of a future settlement.  However, sometimes, the receiving spouse refuses to sign an Acknowledgment of Service and therefore, there is no other option but to have them personally served.  In some rare instances, the receiving spouse receives the initial paperwork via mail, refuses to sign the Acknowledgment of Service and actively attempts to evade future personal service.  In such cases, valuable time is lost and clearly, in retrospect, the better alternative was to have them personally served in the first place.  This is exactly why the attorney and the client must strategize and communicate with each other before deciding how the other spouse should be personally served.

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