How to Serve Child Custody Papers

A child custody dispute has two sides, and a court needs to hear from both before deciding such an important issue. If you file court paperwork first, then you will need to inform the other parent. This is called “serving” papers on them.

North Carolina law has detailed rules regarding service. If you need help in your custody dispute, contact a Wilmington family lawyer today. You will be at a disadvantage if you try to tackle a child custody dispute on your own.

What Not to Do: Hand Deliver Papers Yourself

This might sound like the simplest way to give the other parents papers—swing on by their house and hand deliver them yourself. Unfortunately, the law prevents this, so it is not an option. And that kind of makes sense. Because you are an interested party in the dispute, you would have an incentive to claim you delivered the papers when you really didn’t. So North Carolina sensibly doesn’t let you do that in most cases.

Option 1: Ask the Sheriff to Deliver

You have a few options for legal service of process, and having the sheriff deliver is probably the easiest method. You should ask the sheriff of the county where the other parent lives or works. This might not be the county you currently live in.

The sheriff will charge a small fee, usually $30. You will have to fill out some paperwork to make it easy for the sheriff to make service.

Option 2: Use Certified Mail

You can use this method to send the complaint and civil summons to the defendant. You must use certified mail, return receipt requested. This shows that the mail was delivered and signed for. You will attach the green receipt to an Affidavit of Return of Service by Certified Mail, which you must fill out and file with the court. This proves you made service on the defendant.

Option 3: Acceptance of Service

This is an option if you get along with the other parent. He or she can sign a sworn statement in front of a notary public that they received the complaint and civil summons. The defendant must file the statement with the court. So this is an exception to the rule that you can’t hand deliver the paperwork—you actually can, but only if the defendant will sign and file the acceptance of service. You can call and ask ahead of time but choose another method if they won’t agree to accept service.

Option 4: Publication

This option is reserved for situations where you can’t find the other parent and don’t know where they live. You will need to perform a pretty thorough investigation. All other methods must be exhausted first. It isn’t enough to swing by your ex’s house and see if their name is still on the mailbox. Instead, ask friends and family if they know where the other parent went. You will also need to search online for information. Talk to an attorney if you can’t easily locate the defendant.

Need Help? Give Us a Call

Service of process rules are tricky. Failing to follow them can result in your case getting kicked out of court, so it is probably best to contact Speaks Law Firm, P.C., today. We have years of experience handling child custody issues, and we would be happy to assist in any way we can.