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Home Page > Family and Relationships > Divorce > Divorce in New Jersey: A Self-Help Guide

D. Chapter 2 - Serving the Divorce Complaint

 

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If you are the plaintiff, you must make sure that the defendant is given a copy of the divorce complaint. This is called “serving” the defendant. Court rules require that service (the act of serving an individual) be done in a specific way. Court rules also require you to show proof to the court that the defendant was served with the complaint in the way required by the rules.

Serve the complaint as soon as possible after the complaint has been returned from the court marked “filed.” The court can dismiss your case if you do not serve the defendant within four months of filing the complaint or if you do not inform the court about the reasons you have been unable to serve the defendant. You should send the defendant a photocopy of the complaint marked “filed” so it is clear to the defendant when the complaint was filed.

Serving the complaint is very important and sometimes may be difficult. From this point on, both the plaintiff and the defendant will need to keep track of time deadlines.

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Preparing a Summons

You must serve the complaint with a Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7). The summons tells the defendant that he or she is being sued and must respond to the complaint within a specific period of time. The first thing that you must do is fill out the Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7). Follow the instructions for filling in all of the blanks. If you do not complete the form accurately and thoroughly, the court might find that you have not properly served the defendant, and you will have to try to serve the defendant all over again. This could be time-consuming and expensive for you.

At the end of the summons, a space is provided for you to fill in a description of the defendant. Provide the following information on the summons to make it easier for the sheriff to identify the defendant:

  • A description of the defendant’s physical appearance (height, weight, race)
  • Special ways of identifying the defendant, such as hair and eye color, a beard or mustache, tattoos, birthmarks, or scars
  • If possible, the best times to find the defendant at home.

See Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7) and Cover Letter to Sheriff (Form 7A).

If you haven’t already made photocopies of the filed copy of your complaint, make at least three photocopies now. You will need two copies for service, and you should keep at least one copy in your file.

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Serving the Defendant

How you serve the defendant depends on whether you know his or her address and, if you do, whether he or she lives in New Jersey. It is usually easier to serve a defendant who lives in New Jersey and whose address you know.

Personal service is the best form of service and should be done by the sheriff’s office. If the defendant does not have an attorney but is willing to cooperate with service, you may serve the defendant by mail. If the defendant has an attorney, you may serve the defendant by mail through his or her attorney.

If you cannot serve the defendant in person or by mail because you do not know where he or she lives, you will need to get permission from the court to serve the defendant another way, such as by serving another person who will probably be in touch with the defendant or by publishing a notice in a newspaper. This procedure is complicated and will require you to do extra work. It will also involve costs for mailing, including certified mail with return receipts and, possibly, costs for publication in a newspaper. You may want to consult an attorney to help you serve a defendant whose address is unknown to you.

Note to victims of domestic violence: If you are hiding from your spouse because you are afraid and you have filed a complaint that does not contain your address and phone number, you will need to provide a post office box number or an alternative address where you can receive mail. To ensure your safety, you should consider obtaining an alternative address through the New Jersey Address Confidentiality Program. You should also make sure to provide the post office box or alternative address on all correspondence to the defendant or to others to whom you may write in order to find the defendant for the purposes of serving him or her.

This chapter will explain how to serve a defendant in the following five situations:

  1. Personal service on a New Jersey resident. The defendant lives in New Jersey and can be served in person because you know his or her address.

  2. Personal service on an out-of-state defendant or a defendant in a foreign country. The defendant lives in another state or in a foreign country and can be served in person because you know his or her address.

  3. Service by mail on a cooperative defendant. The defendant is cooperative and will agree to accept service by mail (the defendant may live in New Jersey or another state or in a foreign country). The defendant must sign a form called an acknowledgment of service in front of a notary and return the notarized form to you.

  4. Service by mail on a cooperative defendant through the defendant’s attorney. The defendant is cooperative and has an attorney who will agree to accept service by mail for the defendant (the defendant may live in New Jersey or another state or in a foreign country).

  5. Service on a defendant whose address is unknown. You do not know where the defendant lives and, therefore, cannot serve the defendant in person.

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A. Personal Service on a New Jersey Resident

The defendant lives in New Jersey and you know his or her address. The most reliable way to serve the defendant is to have a sheriff’s officer in the county where the defendant lives serve him or her in person. If you have a court order waiving fees, you should not have to pay the sheriff for serving the defendant. If you do not have a court order waiving fees, you will have to pay service and mileage fees to the sheriff. Call the sheriff’s office to find out how much it will cost to pay the fees and mileage. Be aware, too, that you may have to pay additional fees if a sheriff’s officer has to make several trips to serve a defendant.

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Sending Documents to the Sheriff

You must mail or give the following documents to the sheriff of the county where the defendant lives. (List of county sheriff's offices.) Remember to keep a copy of each form for yourself.

  • A Cover Letter to Sheriff (Form 7A).
  • Two copies of the completed Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7).
  • Two copies of the Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution (Form 1A, 1B, 1C, or 1D) and Attached Certification, Certification of Insurance (Form 2), and Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution Alternatives (Form 2B), all marked “filed.”
  • A check or money order for the service fee. (There is a fee for this service. To find out what the fee is, contact the sheriff’s office. If you received a court order allowing you to file your divorce papers without paying the filing fee, include a signed copy of that order with your letter to the sheriff, and the sheriff’s fees should be waived.)
  • A self-addressed, stamped envelope so the sheriff can send the proof of service back to you once the defendant has been served.

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Time Limits

On your calendar, write the date you sent the summons and complaint to the sheriff’s office, and make a note to call the sheriff’s office two weeks from that date if you have not heard from that office.

We explain below what should happen once the sheriff’s office receives your documents and check.

  • A sheriff’s officer will serve the defendant. A sheriff’s officer will give the documents you sent to the defendant personally or will leave the documents at the defendant’s home with any competent household member who is 14 years of age or older.
  • The sheriff’s officer will sign a proof of service and send it to you in the self-addressed, stamped envelope that you have provided. After serving the defendant, the sheriff’s officer will sign the proof of service on page 3 of the Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7). The signed proof of service shows the defendant’s name and the place, manner, and date of service. The date of service is important because the defendant has 35 days from the date he or she is served to answer or respond in some way to the complaint for divorce. So, mark the date of service on your calendar and note the date 35 days from that date. You may have to file more papers on that date, depending on what the defendant does after he or she is served.

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Filing the Sheriff’s Proof of Service

The sheriff’s proof of service must be filed with the court where the divorce complaint is filed. The sheriff’s officer is supposed to file the proof of service with the court and send you a copy. However, the sheriff’s officer may not always remember to do that. You should file it yourself to make sure the court has it. Remember to keep a copy for yourself. If you do not get the sheriff’s proof of service within 30 days of mailing the papers to the county sheriff’s office, call that office to make sure you get it.

To file the sheriff’s proof of service, send it to the clerk of the court with a Filing Letter to Court—Sheriff’s Proof of Service (Form 7B) in the county where you filed your complaint. Send an original and one copy, plus a self-addressed, stamped envelope so the court can return a filed copy to you.

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B. Personal Service on an Out-of-State Defendant or a Defendant in a Foreign Country

The defendant lives in another state or outside of the United States and you know his or her address. You may need to get some legal advice in order to do this kind of service. It can be a very complicated procedure to personally serve a defendant who lives in a foreign country. You should not try to personally serve a defendant in a foreign country unless you know whom you have to contact, what the procedures are for serving divorce papers, and that you can afford to pay for the service.

It is less complicated to personally serve a defendant who lives in another state. You can easily find out what you have to do to get divorce papers served by calling either the sheriff, police, county clerk, or other public office in the defendant’s city or town. Usually, it is a county sheriff’s office that does this. However, some states have other officials who do this kind of service. You will have to do some research on your own to find out who does this kind of service and how much it will cost you.

Also, even if you have a waiver so that you do not have to pay fees in New Jersey—see Order Waiving Fees (Form 5)—your waiver is good only for New Jersey. You will have to pay service and mileage fees for service in a state other than New Jersey. Follow the instructions you are given by those out-of-state officials.

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Sending Documents to an Out-of-State Sheriff or Other Agency

To satisfy the New Jersey courts’ service requirements, you must send the following documents for service to an out-of state sheriff or official:

  • A Cover Letter to Sheriff (Form 7A)
  • Two copies of the completed Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7)
  • Two copies of the Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution (Form 1A, 1B, 1C, or 1D) and Attached Certification, Certification of Insurance (Form 2), and  Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution Alternatives (Form 2B), all marked “filed”
  • A check or money order for the service and mileage fees
  • A self-addressed, stamped envelope so the sheriff can send you a proof of service.

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Time Limits

On your calendar, mark the date you sent the summons and complaint to the out-of-state sheriff’s office or other agency and make a note to call that office two weeks from that date, if necessary.

Once the sheriff or other official sends you the proof of service, mark the date the defendant was served and the date 35 days from that date. The defendant has 35 days to respond to the divorce complaint. What you will have to do next will depend on whether or not the defendant files papers of his or her own within this 35-day period.

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Filing the Sheriff’s or Other Agent’s Proof of Service

Once the defendant is served, the sheriff or other government official will send a proof of service back to you. You must then file it with the court. Send the Filing Letter to Court—Sheriff’s Proof of Service (Form 7B) to the court in the county where you filed your complaint. Send an original and one copy, plus a self-addressed, stamped envelope so that the court can return a filed copy to you. Remember to keep a copy for yourself.

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C. Service by Mail on a Cooperative Defendant

This quick and low-cost method of service will only work if the defendant will accept service and fill out and sign the Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8) in front of a notary and return it to you. (Notaries usually can be found at banks and at real estate and law offices.)

If the defendant accepts service and sends back a signed and notarized acknowledgment of service, you will have to file the acknowledgment with the court. Sometimes a defendant will not return the acknowledgment of service, but will instead file an answer to your divorce complaint with the court. In this situation, the court will still consider the defendant to have been properly served. The steps you must take after the defendant files an answer are explained in Chapter 3: After Serving the Divorce Complaint.

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Sending Documents to the Defendant

You must send the following documents to the defendant by both regular mail and certified mail, return receipt requested. (Remember to keep the signed return receipt with your records. This is important in proving that the defendant has been served, especially if the defendant becomes uncooperative and you have to ask the court for permission to use another form of service.)

  • A Cover Letter to Defendant or Defendant’s Attorney—Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8A) explaining that the defendant should sign the acknowledgment of service in front of a notary, return the original to you, and retain one copy for his or her records.
  • Two copies of the completed Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7).
  • Two copies of the Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution (Form 1A, 1B, 1C, or 1D) and Attached Certification, Certification of Insurance (Form 2), and Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution Alternatives (Form 2B), all marked “filed.”
  • An Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8). The defendant should sign the form in front of a notary and return the notarized form to you. The defendant should keep a copy for his or her files.
  • A self-addressed, stamped envelope so that the defendant can return the signed and notarized acknowledgment of service to you.

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Filing the Acknowledgment of Service

After you get the signed and notarized acknowledgment of service form back from the defendant, immediately file it with the court. Make two copies of the signed acknowledgment. File the original and one copy with the court and keep the additional copy for your files. To file the acknowledgment, send the following to the court clerk:

  • Filing Letter to Court—Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8B). Request that a filed copy be returned to you.
  • Original and one copy of the signed and notarized Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8).
  • Self-addressed, stamped envelope so that the court can send you a filed copy.

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Timekeeping After You Receive the Signed Acknowledgment of Service

Mark the date the defendant was served and the date 35 days from that date. The defendant has 35 days to respond to the divorce complaint. If the defendant does not respond, you will have to file additional papers once this 35-day period has expired. What you will have to file will depend on whether or not the defendant files some papers of his or her own and what types of papers the defendant files. Your next steps will be covered in Chapter 3: After Serving the Complaint.

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What to Do if the Defendant Becomes Uncooperative and Does Not Return the Acknowledgment of Service

If the defendant does not return the acknowledgment of service to you within three weeks, call the defendant to ask him or her to return it right away. If it is clear that the defendant is no longer willing to cooperate with you, you should immediately serve the defendant through the sheriff’s office in the county where the defendant resides. If you fail to serve the defendant by mail, personal service is the most reliable alternative. See Personal Service on a New Jersey Resident, and Personal Service on an Out-of-State Defendant or a Defendant in a Foreign Country.

If you do not show the court that you have served the defendant within four months of filing your complaint, the court may take steps to dismiss your complaint.

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D. Service by Mail on a Cooperative Defendant Through the Defendant’s Attorney

If the defendant has an attorney, the defendant may allow the attorney to accept service for him or her. If the attorney accepts service, this is considered the same as giving the papers to the defendant in person. The attorney will accept service and return an acknowledgment of service to you. Remember to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. If the defendant agrees to do this, you must send the attorney the following documents by regular mail:

  • A Cover Letter to Defendant or Defendant’s Attorney—Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8A).
  • Two copies of the completed Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7).
  • Two copies of the Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution (Form 1A, 1B, 1C, or 1D) and Attached Certification, Certification of Insurance (Form 2), and Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution Alternatives (Form 2B), all marked “filed.”
  • An Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8). The defendant’s attorney will sign the form and return it to you. The defendant’s attorney will keep a copy for his or her files.

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Filing the Acknowledgment of Service

After you get the signed and notarized acknowledgment of service form back from the defendant’s attorney, you must file it with the court. Make two copies. File the original and one copy with the court and keep the additional copy for your files. To file the acknowledgment of service form, send the following to the court clerk:

  • Filing Letter to Court—Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8B). Check off the appropriate box and request that a filed copy be returned to you.
  • Original and one copy of the signed Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8).
  • Self-addressed, stamped envelope so that the court can send you a filed copy.

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Timekeeping After You Receive the Signed Acknowledgment of Service

Mark the date the defendant was served and the date 35 days from that date. The defendant has 35 days to respond to the divorce complaint. If the defendant does not respond, you will have to file additional papers once this 35-day period has expired. What you will have to file will depend on whether or not the defendant files some papers of his or her own and on what types of papers the defendant files. Your next steps will be covered in Chapter 3: After Serving the Complaint.

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E. Service on a Defendant Whose Address Is Unknown

When you do not know where the defendant lives, you are required to make “diligent inquiries” of all people or agencies that may know where the defendant lives. If, after your diligent inquiries, you do not find an address for the defendant, you will have to ask the court to let you serve the defendant in another way. The court will generally give you permission to use an alternative method to serve the defendant, as long as you can show that you made “diligent efforts” to locate the defendant.

The other ways to serve a defendant whose address you do not know are:

  • Serving a defendant by way of “substituted service on a special agent”—serving another person, in place of the defendant, who is likely to be able to give the summons and complaint to the defendant (often a relative or close friend of the defendant); or
  • Serving a defendant by way of “publication”—publishing a notice of the divorce complaint in a newspaper.

Both of these methods are complicated. If you end up in this situation, you may want to seek legal assistance. If you decide to handle this procedure yourself, you need to follow the steps below. You must also make sure to keep copies of all of the written inquiries that you send and all of the responses you receive to your inquiries.

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Step 1: Making Diligent Inquiries

Use Letters of Inquiry (Forms 9 through 9H), described below, to make inquiries of people and agencies that may have an address for the defendant. You must keep copies of the letters you send and the responses you receive so that you can submit them to the court as evidence of your attempts to find the defendant.

Send letters to:

  • Your spouse’s family members, close friends, or past employers who might know his or her address. These letters must be sent by both regular and certified mail, return receipt requested. Letter of Inquiry to Defendant’s Friends, Family, or Employers (Form 9).
  • The Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) in the state where your spouse last held a driver’s license. This letter should be sent by regular mail only. Note: We provide information for New Jersey. If you need information from another state, you must contact that other state’s department of motor vehicles and ask them for the form they want you to use. Letter of Inquiry to MVC (Form 9A).
  • All branches of the U.S. Military. Send these letters by regular mail only. Letters of Inquiry to Military (Forms 9C through 9H).
  • The post office in your town or in the town where the defendant last resided. Send this letter by regular mail only. Call the post office and ask if there is a search fee. If there is, enclose that fee with your letter. Letter of Inquiry to Postmaster (Form 9B).

Be sure to:

  • Fill in all of the blanks as indicated on the forms.
  • Make two copies of each completed letter. Mail one copy and keep the other in your file for use when you complete your supporting certifications for an order permitting an alternative method of service.
  • Send the Letter of Inquiry to Defendant’s Friends, Family, or Employers (Form 9) by both regular mail and by certified mail, return receipt requested.
  • Send the other Letters of Inquiry (Forms 9A through 9H) by regular mail.
  • Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope with each letter to encourage the recipient to write back to you.
  • Attach the signed return receipts or replies to your copy of the letter you sent to that person. You will need these letters, return receipts, and any responses you receive when you get to Step 2.

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Time Limits. On your calendar, mark the date you mailed the letters and the date three weeks from then so you know when it is time to take your next steps.

If someone to whom you wrote does provide you with an address for the defendant, you may try to serve the defendant in person at that address. See Personal Service on a New Jersey Resident. If the address is not in New Jersey, follow the instructions for Personal Service on an Out-of-State Defendant. If service is successful, you will file the proof of service with the court and wait (for at least 35 days) for a response from the defendant.

However, if you do not get an address, or if you do get an address but are not able to serve the defendant through the sheriff’s office or by mail, you must apply to the court for permission to serve the defendant by one of the alternate methods. To do this, follow the instructions outlined in Step 2 below.

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Step 2: Preparing Court Papers When You Cannot Serve the Defendant After Diligent Inquiries

If you do not get an address for the defendant through your diligent inquiries, you will have to ask the court for an order to serve the defendant by either substituted service on a special agent or by publication.

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Request for Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent. If someone you know or someone you wrote to is in touch with the defendant and will give the divorce papers to him or her, you may apply to the court for permission to serve that person in place of the defendant. The person acting as special agent for service must be 18 years of age or older. To make that application to the court, you must fill out Forms 10A and 10B and attach all documents as instructed below.

  • Ex Parte Request for Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent and Supporting Certification (Form 10A). The supporting certification provides the court with information about your efforts to find the defendant, including:
    • The name of each person to whom you wrote
    • Their relationship to the defendant—family member, friend, employer, business associate, government agency, military agency
    • The date the letter was sent
    • The nature of any responses you received
    • The date and results of any phone calls, Internet searches, or other methods you used to find the defendant,
      In addition, attach the following items to the Supporting Certification (Form 10A):

    • A copy of each letter you sent (Forms 9 through 9H), with the return receipts and any replies that you received
    • Copies of the certificate of non-military service that you received from the military

  • Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent (Form 10B). This form lets the court know the name and address of the person (special agent) to be served in place of the defendant. The person acting as special agent for service must be 18 years of age or older. Also indicate the relationship of this person to the defendant—for example,  mother, aunt, sister—and why you believe that person will be able to give the papers to the defendant.

  • Filing Letter to Court—Ex Parte Request for Substituted Service (Form 10C). Send this letter to the filing clerk of the court along with the original and two copies of the Ex Parte Request for Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent and Supporting Certification (Form 10A) and the Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent (Form 10B).

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Requesting Service by Publication. If you do not know where the defendant is and do not know anyone who could be appointed for substituted service upon the defendant, you will need to apply to the court for permission to serve the defendant by publishing a notice in a newspaper that is circulated in the county where the complaint was filed. To do this, you will have to complete Forms 11A and 11B.

  • Ex Parte Request for Order for Service by Publication and Supporting Certification (Form 11A). The supporting certification provides the court with information about your efforts to find the defendant. Remember to sign and date the certification. For each person, business, or agency you wrote to, provide the court with the information below:
    • The name of each person to whom you wrote
    • Their relationship to the defendant—family member, friend, employer, business associate, government agency, military agency
    • The date of each letter
    • The nature of any responses you received
    • The date and results of any phone calls, Internet searches, or other methods you used to find the defendant.
      Attach the following items to your certification as exhibits:

    • A copy of each letter you sent (Forms 9 through 9H), with the return receipts and any replies that you received
    • Copies of the certificate of non-military service that you received from the military.

  • Order for Service by Publication (Form 11B). In this order, you may suggest the name of a local newspaper and ask the court to let you publish your notice in that newspaper; but the court makes the final decision as to which newspaper will publish the notice.

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Step 3: Filing the Court Papers

Filing Instructions for an Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent. Mail the original plus two copies of each of the following forms to the court, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope:

  • Filing Letter to Court—Request for Substituted Service (Form 10C).
  • Ex Parte Request for Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent and Supporting Certification (Form 10A) with attached letters of inquiry and replies.
  • Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent (Form 10B).
  • If filing fees have not been waived, you will have to pay a filing fee. (Call the court for the fee amount. Currently, the fee is $30.)
  • If your filing fees have been waived, you will have to provide a copy of your signed Order Waiving Fees (Form 5).

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Filing Instructions for an Order for Service by Publication. Mail the original plus two copies of each of the following forms to the court, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope:

  • Filing Letter to Court—Ex Parte Request for Service by Publication (Form 11C).
  • Ex Parte Request for Order for Service by Publication and Supporting Certification (Form 11A), with attached letters of inquiry and replies.
  • Order for Service by Publication (Form 11B).
  • If filing fees have not been waived, you will have to pay a filing fee. (Call the court for the fee amount. Currently, the fee is $30.)
  • If your filing fees have been waived, you will have to provide a copy of your signed Order Waiving Fees (Form 5).

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Time Limits. Mark the date you sent the papers to the court. If you do not receive the order within three weeks, call the court to find out if it has been signed and when you will get it.

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Step 4: Serving the Defendant

After you receive a copy of the signed order for substituted service on a special agent or by publication, you may proceed to serve the defendant.

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Substituted Service on a Special Agent. If the court grants your request for substituted service, the judge will sign the Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent (Form 10B) and will name the special agent for service, usually the person you suggested in your certification. The judge will also specify in the order how that person is to be served. Usually, the order will state that the person is to be served personally through the sheriff’s office. In this case, follow the instructions for Personal Service on a New Jersey Resident or Personal Service on an Out-of-State Defendant. The order may also contain instructions for you to serve the person by registered or certified mail.

For service on a special agent, send the following documents to the sheriff or other government agent by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested:

  • A Cover Letter to Sheriff (Form 7A).
  • Two copies of the completed Summons and Attached Proof of Service (Form 7).
  • Two copies of the Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution (Form 1A, 1B, 1C, or 1D) and Attached Certification, Certification of Insurance (Form 2), and  Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution Alternatives (Form 2B), all marked “filed.”
  • A copy of the Order for Substituted Service on a Special Agent (Form 10B).
  • A check or money order for the service fee. (To find out what the fee is, contact the sheriff’s office.) If you received permission from the court to file your divorce papers without paying the filing fee, include that signed Order Waiving Fees (Form 5) with your letter to the sheriff and the sheriff’s fees should be waived if the service is being done in New Jersey.
  • A self-addressed, stamped envelope.

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Service by Publication. The signed Order for Service by Publication (Form 11B) will tell you where to publish the notice of your divorce. You will have to prepare a Notice of Order of Publication (Form 12) to send to the newspaper. The notice contains information similar to that found in the Summons and
Attached Proof of Service (Form 7).

You must publish the Notice of Order of Publication (Form 12) in the newspaper specified in the order by the deadline specified in the signed   Order for Service by Publication (Form 11B). Send the notice to the newspaper as soon as you receive the signed order so that you can be sure that you are following the court order. You will need to call the newspaper named in the order to find out how much it will cost to publish the notice and where you should send the notice.

You will need to send the following to the newspaper immediately:

  • A Cover Letter to Newspaper Requesting Publication (Form 12A). Ask them to send you proof of publication.
  • The Notice of Order of Publication (Form 12).
  • The fee for publication, payable to the newspaper. This fee is required, even for those who do not have to pay court filing fees.
  • A self-addressed, stamped envelope.

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Time Limits. Mark off a week before the final date for publication and, if you can, check the paper to make sure that they publish the notice. Call the newspaper to make sure that the notice will be published within the time specified by the court.

The newspaper must send you proof that the notice was published. This proof can be in the form of an affidavit or a certification. Make sure that you get a copy of the notice and certification. If you do not receive anything within seven days after the last date for publication, call the paper immediately to find out what the status is.

Once you receive the affidavit or certification of publication and a copy of the published notice from the newspaper, you will file them with the court. Send the following to the clerk of the court:

  • A Filing Letter to Court—Certification of Publication (Form 12B)
  • The original and one copy of the certification and notice sent to you by the newspaper
  • A self-addressed, stamped envelope for return of the filed copy.

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Important Information About Keeping Track of Time for Your Next Steps

No matter which form of service you are using, you must keep track of time. Note the following dates on your calendar:

  • Service by mail. The date you sent papers to the sheriff, the defendant, his attorney, a special agent for service, or to a newspaper for publication. You should follow up with them if they do not respond within three weeks of the date you sent the papers.
  • Personal service. The date the sheriff served the defendant or a special agent for service and the date 35 days later, which is the deadline for the defendant to respond to your complaint.
  • Acknowledgment of service. If you served the defendant or his or her attorney by mail using an acknowledgment of service, mark the date the acknowledgment was signed and the date 35 days later, which is the deadline for the defendant to respond to your complaint.
  • Service by publication. The date the newspaper notice was published and the date set by the court for the defendant to respond. The date for a response will be found in the order for publication.

Remember: You must serve the defendant as quickly as possible once you file your complaint. If you do not serve the defendant within four months after the date on which you filed your complaint, the court may dismiss your complaint. Always keep at least one copy of all of the papers related to your case, including cover letters.

Once the time for the defendant to respond to your complaint has run out, you move on to the next step or steps, which are explained in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.

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