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Ohio Service of Process for Divorce
The Server

Process servers in Ohio are not licensed. Anyone over 18, who is not a party to the case, may serve divorce papers. The process server may also be the county sheriff or a paid process server.

Notifying the Spouse

After the complaint for divorce is filed, the defendant spouse is served a summons and the complaint. Any competent person who is 18 and over may waive service of the summons in writing.

Generally, service of process is by certified or express mail. The clerk mails the summons and complaint as certified or express mail, return receipt requested, with instructions to show to whom ti was delivered, the date of delivery, and the address where delivered. The clerk records the fact of mailing on the appearance docket and also records entry of the return receipt.

If the envelope cannot be delivered, the clerk notifies the party (or his or her attorney) and enters the fact of notification on the appearance docket.

If the spouse declines to sign for or pick up certified mail, the plaintiff must attempt personal service. Using this method, the person serving process locates the defendant and tenders a copy of the divorce documents to the recipient. When the copy of the process has been served, the server endorses that fact on the process and returns it to the clerk, who makes the appropriate entry on the appearance docket.

If the server cannot deliver the divorce papers within 28 days, the server states the reasons on the summons and returns the process and copies to the clerk who shall make the appropriate entry on the appearance docket.

The plaintiff may request residence service. In this routine, the process server leaves the documents “at the usual place of residence of the person to be served with some person of suitable age and discretion.” If this is unsuccessful for 28 days, the server describes the facts on the back of the process, and returns it to the clerk, who shall make the appropriate entry on the appearance docket.

Failure of Service

In the event of failure of service - that is, if the spouse refuses to sign or pick up certified mail - the plaintiff normally turns to personal service, which means having the sheriff or the process server personally serve the divorce papers. If the plaintiff cannot provide information for certified mail, or if personal service fails, the rules permit other forms of service. For instance, if the plaintiff does not know where his or her spouse lives, or if the certified mail is returned, the plaintiff may turn to service by publication.

If a spouse disappears and the other one has no idea of his or her whereabouts, service by publication helps the plaintiff comply with the rules of notification. The plaintiff must make what is known as a diligent search and then file a motion for permission to advertise notice of service.

Upon the filing of the affidavit, the clerk conveys a notice to be made by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the complaint is filed. The notice identifies the name and address of the court, the case number, the name of the first party on each side, and the name and last known address, if any, of the person or persons whose residence is unknown.

The publication notifies the recipient that he or she must answer within 28 days. The notice is published at least once a week for 6 successive weeks. Service is effected on the date of the last publication. After the last publication, the publisher or its agent files an affidavit showing the fact of publication together with a copy of the notice of publication. The affidavit and copy of the notice prove service.

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