1 UNCONTESTED DIVORCE PROCEDURE Contents AT THE CROSSROADS Psychology And Legality The Easy Way And The Hard Way Should You Represent Yourself? Step-By-Step RESOURCES & ASSISTANCE Overview Free Assistance From The Family Law Facilitator (If You Qualify) Family Law Facilitator Act Services Provided Income Limitations Online Resources Do Your Entire Divorce Online At DivorceYourselfOnline.Com STEP ONE: GET IT TOGETHER Overview Identify The Issues Child Custody & Visitation Child Support Spousal Support Community Property Division Separate Property Community Debt Division Reimbursements Get Specific Gather Documents And Information Community Assets & Debts Income & Expenses Checklist STEP TWO: INITIAL FILING WITH THE COURT Overview Choose The Proper Court Prepare Documents For Initial Filings Prepare The Documents Basic Documents Optional Disclosure Documents
2 Optional Filing Fee Waiver Documents Prepare Copies Filing With The Court Clerk What To Bring With You Be Prepared For Rejection If Your Papers Are In Order Yes!! Optional Take The Papers Directly To The Marshal Checklist STEP THREE: SERVE THE INITIAL PAPERS ON YOUR SPOUSE Overview Choose Which Process Service Procedure To Use Personal Service Substituted Service Acknowledgement Of Service Certified Or Registered Mail Publication Choose A Process Server For Personal Or Substituted Service Legal Requirements Our Preference Prepare The Service Package Have The Papers Served Prepare The Proof Of Service Form Checklist STEP 4: GENERAL APPEARANCE, RESPONSE, OR DEFAULT Overview Decide Whether Your Spouse Should Respond If Your Spouse Doesn t Respond If Your Spouse Responds Option A Do Nothing Option B - File A Response Option C - File An Appearance, Stipulation & Waiver Checklist STEP FIVE: PRELIMINARY DECLARATION OF DISCLOSURE Overview Prepare The Preliminary Disclosure Package Serve Your Spouse Prepare Proof By Mail Prepare & File Declaration Regarding Service But What If Your Spouse Won t Cooperate? Checklist STEP SIX: FINAL DECLARATION OF DISCLOSURE Overview
3 Decide Whether To Waive Final Disclosure Option A - Waive Final Disclosure Stipulated Mutual Waiver Petitioner s Waiver In Default Cases Good Cause Option B Prepare & Final Disclosure Packages Prepare Documents Make Copies Exchange Disclosure Documents File The Notice Regarding Service With The Court Checklist STEP SEVEN: PREPARE & SIGN A MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT Overview When To Get It Signed Prepare A First Draft Of The MSA Use The Sample MSA As A Guide General Drafting Considerations Negotiate The Final Terms With Your Spouse Sign & Notarize Checklist STEP EIGHT: OBTAIN JUDGMENT BY MAIL OR SET IN-PERSON HEARING Overview Alternative A Obtain Judgment By Mail Procedure In Default Cases Procedure In Uncontested Cases With A Marital Settlement Agreement Alternative B Set In-Person Court Hearing Checklist STEP NINE: THE IN-PERSON HEARING (WHEN JUDGMENT BY MAIL IS NOT AN OPTION) STEP TEN: SERVE THE WAGE ASSIGNMENT ORDER ON YOUR SPOUSE S EMPLOYER APPENDIX A: FORMS APPENDIX B: CALIFORNIA STATUTES
5 AT THE CROSSROADS Psychology & Legality: If you have made the decision to divorce, you must necessarily move from the comfort and safety and familiarity of the known past and present into the discomfort and danger and unfamiliarity of the unknown future. The task before you is to find a way to leave the past behind and move into your new life with as much courage as you can muster and without allowing the negative psychology of divorce to hurt you and your children and your friends more than it has to. To do this, you will have to contend simultaneously with both the often gut-wrenching psychological processes associated with divorce and with the Byzantine processes of a court system that nobody really fully understands. As anyone who has been through a divorce will tell you, that s a pretty tall order. Every lawyer knows that, just when the parties need most to exercise their rational faculties to care for the needs of children and to equitably divide property and debts, they are least able to do so because, in most (but not all) cases, the parties are emotionally out to lunch. And, sadly, experience tells us that they are often out to lunch for a very long time all too often long enough for them to destroy everything they have built together and to traumatize their children for life. If you want to move beyond the crossroads, the challenge is for you to screw up your courage, stay cool, and to do what you have to do the easy way rather than the hard way. The Easy Way And The Hard Way: The hard way is all too familiar. Everyone knows someone who has gone through the divorce from hell. Attorneys are hired initial papers are filed temporary restraining orders are sought depositions are taken friends and family are polarized children are traumatized and the assets of the parties which may have been accumulated over many years are quickly transferred to attorneys, investigators, and court reporters leaving little or nothing for the parties themselves in the end. Years later the parties look back and wonder how they could have been so crazy. But there is another way the easy way. In this scenario the parties suppress their anger and/or their jealousy. They agree to disagree on who was at fault for the divorce. They sit down and engage in the activity that separates apes from humans they TALK. Negotiation substitutes for litigation, compromise substitutes for polarization, agreements are drafted and signed, and often neither party ever has to see the inside of a courtroom. The payoff for doing your divorce the easy way is tremendous. You might actually get to KEEP some of your assets and your children might not be in therapy for the next twenty years. What a concept!!
6 Should You Represent Yourself? Unless you are a lawyer, the decision to represent yourself in any legal proceeding always involves some quantum of risk. And obviously those risks are greater in some cases than they are in others. The risks are greater where children are involved, where spousal support is an issue, and where assets and/or debts are large. In such cases, it often makes sense to bite the bullet and pay the price for competent legal help. But where the risks are lower and resources available to hire a lawyer are limited, it may make sense for you to assume whatever risks there may be and go it alone. Ironically, the best way to determine whether you need a lawyer in your case is to give one a call. Many lawyers will give you a free initial consultation after which you should have a much better idea of the risks and benefits of hiring an attorney. Step-By-Step: For those brave souls who are willing to assume the risks and to accept the call to adventure, this book will attempt to guide you through our sometimes confounding legal processes. Inside you will find forms, detailed instructions to show you how to fill them out, and step-by-step instructions to tell you where to go and what to do at each stage of the proceedings. The vast majority of the forms and procedures necessary to complete your divorce are standard throughout the state. However, local courts often add minor variations to the process with local court rules and local forms. These may (but probably will not) prove to be a minor irritant as you move through the process. That said let s get started.
7 RESOURCES & ASSISTANCE Overview: We will provide you here with as much information as we can given the limitations of a book of this size. However, along the way, you may have questions which are beyond the scope of this book or which have to do with local court procedures. In such cases it is always best to see an attorney. However, if you are not so inclined, there are a number of places you can go for answers other than the traditional hard-copy law library. If you qualify, you may be able to take advantage of the assistance of the newly-created Office Of The Family Law Facilitator. There are also a growing number of websites containing valuable divorce-related information. You may even choose to do your entire divorce interactively at DivorceYourselfOnline.Com the companion website to this book Free Assistance From The Family Law Facilitator: Family Law Facilitator Act: Based on a finding that there is "a compelling state interest in having a speedy, conflict-reducing system for resolving issues of child support, spousal support, and health insurance that is cost-effective and accessible to families that cannot afford legal representation" in 1996 the California Legislature passed the Family Law Facilitator Act [California Family Code et seq]. The act mandates each California Superior Cout to maintain an "office of the family law facilitator" to assist unrepresented (pro per) litigants to more effectively access the court system. If you get stuck in following at any stage of the process described in this book, you may want to consider a trip to the facilitator s office for help. Services Provided: The Act (Family Code 10004) provides that family law facilitator services shall include the following mandatory services: a. Providing educational materials to parents concerning the court process of establishing parentage and establishing, modifying and enforcing child and spousal support; b. Distributing necessary court forms and voluntary declarations of paternity, and providing assistance in completing the forms; c. Preparing support schedules based upon statutory guidelines; d. Providing referrals to the local child support agency, family court services and other community resources that provide services for parents and children; and e. Providing assistance on child support issues in counties that have a family law information center ( 3:480.1). [Ca Fam (amended Stats. 1999, Ch. 652)]
8 The act also empowers your local court to designate additional duties of the family law facilitator which may include (but are not limited to) the following: a. Mediation: Meeting with the parties to mediate issues of child support, spousal support and maintenance of health insurance. [Family Code 10005(a)(1)] b. Stipulations: Drafting stipulations to include all issues agreed to by the parties (not limited to issues of support and health insurance). [Family Code 10005(a)(2)] c. Assistance at hearings on contested issues: Before or at the hearing on issues not resolved with the facilitator's assistance, and at the court's request, reviewing the paperwork, examining documents, preparing support schedules, and advising the judge whether the matter is ready to proceed. [Family Code 10005(a)(3)] d. Court records: Assisting the court clerk in maintaining records. [Family Code 10005(a)(4)] e. Preparation of court orders: Preparing formal orders consistent with the court's announced order in cases where both parties are in pro per. [Family Code 10005(a)(5)] f. Special master: Serving as special master in proceedings and making findings to the court unless the facilitator has served as a mediator in the case. [Family Code 10005(a)(6)] g. Custody/visitation-related child support issues: Providing the services regarding issues of child custody and visitation as they relate to calculating child support, "if funding is available for that purpose." [Family Code 10005(a)(8)] Income Limitations: The services of the Family Law Facilitator are provided only to low-income persons. Family Code Section 15010(d) says that "lowincome" shall mean individuals whose net monthly income, after deduction of mandatory court ordered payments, is 200 percent or less of the current monthly poverty line annually established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services pursuant to the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, as amended. The act further provides that Family law litigants, prior to receiving the services of the family law information center, shall be required to sign a declaration attesting to their financial eligibility to receive those services. No other efforts to verify financial eligibility shall be necessary. Online Resources: Do Your Entire Divorce Online At DivorceYourselfOnline.Com :
10 STEP 1: GET IT TOGETHER 1. Overview: In broad outline, these are the things you will have to do to bring your uncontested or default divorce case to judgment: a. Identify the issues you will have to deal with. b. Collect the documents and information (the facts) relevant to the issues of your particular case. c. Negotiate, draft, and sign a written agreement dealing with all of the issues (if your spouse is cooperative). d. Follow required Court procedure to obtain the judgment. 2. Identify The Issues: First, before you dive into the details of the process, sit down for a few minutes, think about the issues you will have to deal with in your divorce, and make a few preliminary notes to yourself. Typically divorce issues fall into one of the following categories: a. Child Custody & Visitation: If there are children of the marriage, who will have legal custody and who will have physical custody of the children? Will one party have sole custody? Will custody be shared? If it is shared, will you need an order setting out specific dates, times, and places for visitation or is your relationship with your spouse such that you can live with a reasonable visitation order which will allow you to decide on visitation times without the necessity of a formal order? b. Child Support: How much child support will be paid. When will the payments be made? When will it terminate? Should it be paid directly to the receiving spouse or should it be paid through the court trustee? c. Spousal Support: Will one of the parties need to be supported? If so, how much and for how long? If no support is to be paid now, should the court retain the power (jurisdiction) to order spousal support in the future if the need arises? If there is to be a waiver of support, both parties need to understand that, after the Judgment is entered, neither party will be able to come back to court for a support order. d. Community Property Division: What community property do you have? What is the value of your community property? How are you going to divide it? (In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, community property is generally all property acquired during the marriage [after the date of the marriage and prior to the date of separation] and not acquired during the marriage by way of gift or inheritance.)
11 e. Separate Property: If you have separate property, do you need to make it clear that your spouse has no interest in that property? If so, you will need to ask the court to confirm your separate property to you. (In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, separate property is all property you acquired before the marriage and after the date of separation and all property you acquired during the marriage by way of gift or inheritance.) f. Debt Division: What community debts did you have as of the date of separation? How much are the debts? Who will be responsible for payment of those debts? (Community property debts are all debts incurred after the date of the marriage and prior to the date of the separation) g. Reimbursements: If you or your spouse has paid community property debts with separate property money, the party making such payments has a right to be reimbursed off of the top from the community property estate. Conversely, if one of the spouses has appropriated or disposed of a community property asset, the community estate has a right to a reimbursement from the party who took the property. The community estate may also be entitled to a reimbursement of the reasonable rental value of real property solely occupied by one of the spouses after the date of separation. 2. Get Specific - Gather Documents And Information: a. List Community Assets & Debts: Division of community property assets and debts basically involves three processes. First you will have to characterize each asset or debt as being community property (CP), separate property (SP), or mixed (part CP and part SP). Next, you need to place a value on each asset or debt. And, finally, you need to equally divide the assets and debts. Research: Consult our Legal Library for an introduction to the law regarding the characterization of property. This is a very complex subject. If you do not feel competent to decide for yourself what is and is not community property, you should consult an attorney. Schedule Of Assets & Debts: Take a look at the Judicial Counsel form, Schedule Of Assets & Debts (Form #19). This form lists several categories of community property and debts and identifies documents you might want to gather to help you identify and value them. Our experience tells us that a review of this form will almost always jog your memory and will help you to recall items of community property you might otherwise have overlooked. You will have to fill it out sooner or later in order to comply with the court s disclosure requirements you might as well complete it before you file to help you think about the issues.
12 b. Income And Expenses: If you have child support or spousal support issues, before you can intelligently negotiate with your spouse on the issue, you need to know what support, if any, the court would order in the absence of an agreement. Generally, the court deals with these issues by using a computer program called Dissomaster which calculates support based on a complex mathematical formula contained in California Family Law Code Section. Financial data from both parties is entered into the program and, where there are children, the amount of time each party spends with the children is factored into the calculation, and the program tells the court what Guideline support would be. The court may deviate from the Guideline but it rarely does. Income & Expense Declaration: Take a look at the Income & Expense declaration (Form #22). As part of the mandatory disclosure process, the court requires that the parties each file this form whether or not there are any child and/or spousal support issues to deal with. If you are going to negotiate with your spouse on this issue or if you would just like to know what child or spousal support would be, you might as well fill out this form before you file. Online Child Support Calculator: If you want a rough child support calculation, go to and run the program there. This is NOT a complete Dissomaster calculation but it will give you a pretty good approximation.
13 Checklist Step One Get It Together Identify The Issues Child Custody & Visitation Child Support Spousal Support Community Property Division Separate Property Community Debt Division Reimbursements Get Specific Gather Documents And Information List Community Assets & Debts Fill Out Schedule Of Assets & Debts Income & Expenses Fill Out Income & Expense Declaration Do Child Support Calculation Informal Calculation at Formal Dissomaster Calculation
14 STEP 2: INITIAL FILING WITH THE COURT 1. Overview: The first step in the court procedure to obtain your divorce judgment is to file some initial documents (described below) with the court clerk and to obtain one or more conformed copies for service on your spouse. To do this you must: a. Choose the proper court b. Prepare all documents required by your local court for the initial filing. b. Pay the initial filing fee or obtain a waiver of the filing fee d. Obtain one or more conformed copies. 2. Choosing The Proper Court: To choose the proper California Court in which to file your case, you must satisfy State, County, and sometimes local jurisdiction and venue requirements. 1) California Jurisdiction: In order for California to have Jurisdiction over your case you must have been a resident of the State for the six (6) months prior to the filing of your case. Residence for this purpose means domicile and requires both physical presence (residence) within the state and the intent to remain there indefinitely. The maintenance of a "residence" within the state is not the equivalent of establishing a "domicile" there. Caveat: Residence/Domicile of one of the parties gives the court the power to dissolve the marriage union and to change the marital status of the parties from married to single. This is called In Rem jurisdiction. However, the court's authority to render binding judgments and orders imposing personal obligations on the parties or affecting their personal rights (i.e., support, attorney fees and costs, property interests) requires that the parties be subject to the forum state's personal ("in personam") jurisdiction in conformity with constitutional due process. In Personam jurisdiction over your spouse requires: - Physical presence in the forum state when personally served with process; or - Domicile in the forum state at the time suit is commenced; or - Consent to the exercise of personal jurisdiction; or - "Minimum contacts" with the forum state (but unless "substantial, continuous and systematic," minimum contacts confer personal jurisdiction only in suits arising out of those contacts. If you want to both dissolve your marital status and need orders imposing personal obligations on your spouse, you will need both In Rem and In
15 Personam jurisdiction. 2) County Jurisdiction: Either you or your spouse must have been a resident in the County where you are filing for the three (3) months prior to the date of filing. A spouse satisfies the minimum county residence requirement only if he or she has been "actually residing" (physically present) in the county where the dissolution action is commenced for at least three months. 3) Local Jurisdiction: Many Counties in California have several branch courts. You must consult local court rules to determine which branch court is the proper court for your case. Example: The Los Angeles Superior Court has a filing district locator at which aids in determining the proper court for filing under LA County s local rules (http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/courtrules/chapter2.htm#2.0) Note: The California Judicial Branch web site provides a listing of State courts at 3. Prepare Documents For The First Filing: Local courts often have special forms not included here. Give your local court clerk a call and see if you will be required to file any such documents before you start to put together your package of documents for the initial filing. a. Prepare The Documents: You may choose to file only the basic documents required by the court or, to save time, you may choose to file both the basic documents and the Disclosure documents required in Step 3. Additional documents will have to be prepared if you are going to file for a waiver of filing and service fees. 1). Basic Documents: * Summons (# 1 on the document list) * Petition (# 2 on the document list) * Confidential Counseling Statements (#3 on the document list). This form needs to be filed only in those counties having a family conciliation court. * Declaration Under UCCJA only if you have children (#4 on the document list) * Local Court Forms if they are required, download them if possible or get them from your local court clerk. 2) Optional Disclosure Documents (See Step 3) 3) Optional Filing Fee Waiver Documents: If you cannot afford to pay the costs of filing and service of your documents, you may
16 qualify for a waiver of the fees. The requirements are set out in the State Information Sheet On Waiver Of Court Fees And Costs (#13 on the document list). If you qualify and you choose to apply for the fee waiver, you will need to prepare: * Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs (In Forma Pauperis) (Form #12 on the document list) * Order on Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs (Form #14 on the document list) * Notice of Waiver of Court Fees and Costs (Form #15 on the document list) Note: See instructions for filing fee waiver documents below. b. Prepare Copies: When you go to court to file your papers, you will need the originals and a minimum of 2 copies.: * The original to file with the court. * One copy to conform (stamp) for your file * One copy to conform and serve on your spouse Note: We strongly suggest that you have 3 copies conformed in case the service copy is lost. Note: Many local rules require that you two-hole punch at the top all documents to be filed with the court. 4. File With The Court Clerk: After you initial papers have been prepared, signed, and copied, it will be time to go to the courthouse and file them with the court clerk. a. What To Bring With You: Prepare a package to take with you including: * Original and 2 (preferably 3) copies of your basic documents Summons, Petition, declaration of UCCJA if there are children involved, and any local court documents required by your local court rules. * Blank check for the filing fee. Keep it blank the amount is always changing and you may find when you get to the clerk s office that it is higher (never lower) than you thought (more about this below). * Optional original and copies of Disclosure documents * Optional original and copies of fee waiver documents if you qualify and plan to seek the waiver b. Be Prepared For Rejection: Beware court clerks range from happy/knowledgeable/helpful to incredibly sour/incompetent/obstructionist. Thank your lucky stars if you are blessed with the former. If you happen to be dealt the latter, be prepared to leave the window with your tail
17 between your legs carrying a list of local procedures you have unwittingly failed to follow and, perhaps another list of local court forms you have to go home to prepare. c. If Your Papers Are In Order: When everything is in order, this is what will happen: * Filing Fee: The clerk will ask you for your filing fee. This first paper filing fee is approximately $200, is always changing, and is different from court to court since local courts are allowed to tack on their own small fees to the base fee established by the State legislature. * Original Summons: The court will issue you an original summons. PUT THIS IN YOUR FILE AND DO NOT SERVE IT!! You will need to return it to the court later when you file your default package. * Originals Filed: The clerk will file the original documents in the court file. * Case Number: The court will stamp the originals with a case number. *.Conformed Copies: Ask the court to conform (stamp) all of your copies with the case number and date filed stamp. Some clerks will do this others will conform only one and will hand you the stamps to do the remaining copies yourself. d. Yes!!: You ve done it!! You ve taken the first and most difficult step. It is all downhill from here. Pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to a Starbuck s. You deserve it. 5. Optional Take The Papers Directly To The Marshal: If you are going to use the Marshal s office to serve the papers, you may choose to go directly to the Marshal s office to arrange for the service. (See Step 3 for a discussion on alternative methods of service) In most courts you will find a branch office located in the courthouse for this purpose. You ll have to pay a fee (approximately $30) and fill out a form describing your spouse and giving the location where he/she may be found. If you decide to do this, be sure to bring another check to pay the process service fee.
18 Checklist Step Two Initial Filing With The Court Choose The Proper Court Does California Have Jurisdiction? Does Your County Have Jurisdiction? Does Your Branch Court The Correct Branch For Filing? Prepare Documents For Initial Filings Prepare The Documents Basic Documents Summons Petition Confidential Counseling Statement Declaration Under UCCJA Local Court Forms Optional Disclosure Documents (See Step ) Optional Filing Fee Waiver Documents (See Step ) Prepare Copies Originals For The Court One Copy Of Each For Your File One Copy Of Each To Conform (Stamp) For Your File One Copy To Conform & Serve On Your Spouse Optional: One Copy For Extra Measure Filing With The Court Clerk Prepare Document Package To Take To Court Original And Copies Of The Documents Blank Check For The Filing Fee Optional Take The Papers Directly To The Marshal Bring A Check For Service Fee
19 STEP THREE: SERVE THE INITIAL PAPERS ON YOUR SPOUSE 1. Overview: Basic fairness (due process) requires that your spouse be given notice of the court proceedings and be given an opportunity to respond. To insure that these due process requirements are met, the law requires that the initial documents be served in a manner which will provide the court with maximum confidence that your spouse knows when and where to respond in order to protect his/her rights. Basically the process requires a) service in compliance with the California Code Of Civil Procedure, 2) preparation of a Proof Of Service, and, 3) filing of the Proof Of Service with the court. Once you have properly served the initial papers, you may serve the rest of the papers by mail. (More about this below) 2. Choose Which Process Service Procedure To Use: Take a look at Judicial Council form , Proof Of Service Of Summons (Form #10 on the forms list). Paragraph 2 on the form is Manner Of Service which lays out four specific alternatives and makes a reference to Other. Thos methods are: a. Personal Service: Personal service, authorized under Code Of Civil Procedure , is accomplished by having someone other than a party to the action personally confront your spouse and deliver the summons. Note: It is not necessary for the person served to accept the documents and it is not necessary for your server to touch the person served with the documents all your server needs to do is to confront him/her, show him the documents, and tell him that he has been served. If your spouse won t allow the document to be handed to him, your server can just drop the papers on the ground. Service is effected as of the date of delivery. b. Substituted Service: This method is covered by Code Of Civil Procedure (b) and may be used only if a copy of the summons and of the complaint cannot with reasonable diligence be personally delivered to the person to be served. Before your server can use this method he/she must have first made reasonable efforts to have the Summons personally served. Whether this reasonable diligence standard has been met is a question to be decided by the court. However, most courts generally interpret the law to mean that at least four attempts at personal service have been made. Note: if you must use substituted service, we suggest that you either use the Marshal or hire a private process server to effect the service. Note also that, whoever does the substituted service, you will have to file with the court a written declaration ( declaration of due diligence ) by the server describing what efforts were made before resorting to this method. Service is effected 10 days after the date of mailing
20 c. Acknowledgement Of Service: The documents may also be served by mailing a copy of the summons and complaint to the person to be served together with two (2) copies of the Judicial Council Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt of the summons along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. For other requirements of this method of service, see California Code of Civil Procedure If acknowledgment is not signed by Defendant and returned, service is not effected. Service is effected as of the date indicated at the bottom of the form. d. Certified Or Registered Mail: This method may be used only when your spouse resides outside the State of California. You simply mail the papers by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested. Save the return receipt you ll need to attach it to your proof of service later. Obviously this method won t work if your spouse won t sign for the envelope and you will have to hire a process server or local marshal or sheriff to serve the papers. e. Publication: When your spouse cannot be located for service, California law provides for service of process by publication in a newspaper of general circulation. This procedure requires that you file a motion in court to obtain an order allowing publication and will probably require the services of an attorney. 3. Choose A Process Server For Personal Or Substituted Service: If you cannot serve the initial papers by acknowledgement of service, certified or registered mail, or publication, you will need someone to effect service either personally or by substituted service. You may not serve the papers yourself. a. Legal Requirements: Any person 18 years of age or over and not a party to the action may serve the documents. (See California Code of Civil Procedure ). b. Our Preference: If you have a cooperative spouse and can have him/her sign an Acknowledgment Of Service, you don t have to worry about finding someone to serve the documents. If you do, we recommend against using a close friend or relative whose prejudices and motives may be questioned later. Spend a few dollars and either have your spouse served by a private registered process server or by the local sheriff or marshal. 4. Prepare The Service Package: You will need to put together a package for your process server containing the following documents: a. Summons b. Petition c. Confidential Counseling Statements (in jurisdictions with conciliation courts) d. Blank Confidential Counseling Statement e. Blank Response f. UCCJEA Declaration (where children are involved)