How to Serve Custody Papers

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When someone files a motion or petition for custody of a minor child with the court, she must notify the other parent that she initiated the legal process. In order to notify the other parent, the parent filing must serve the petition or motion. Courts require proof of service before the case can proceed.

Obtain a file-stamped copy of the pleadings (petition or motion) that you filed with the court as well as a copy of the summons. The court will generally file-stamp as many copies as you ask them to stamp when you file the pleadings.

Locate the statutes for your state that address what type of service of process your state allows. There are five basic types of service: personal service by an adult not associated with the case, certified mail, process server, service by civil sheriff or constable, and publication. Not all states allow all five types of service for custody papers. You can find state statutes on court websites, at the local library or at a law library.

Determine which type of service your state allows for service of custody papers. Choose a service method from the available options and serve the papers by that method.


  • Service by certified mail requires the respondent to sign for the papers, so if you think they will not sign for them choose another method.


  • All methods except personal service will have a fee associated with them.


About the Author

Renee Booker has been writing professionally since 2009 and was a practicing attorney for almost 10 years. She has had work published on Gadling, AOL's travel site. Booker holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Ohio State University and a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University School of Law.

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