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Service of Process

What is Service of Process?

In Georgia, “Process” consists of the summons and the complaint. Both documents must be served on the defendant in order to initiate a divorce action. The idea behind service of process is to give the defendant (the person not filing suit) notice of any lawsuit against him/her. You cannot bring a divorce action unless your spouse has proper notice through service of process. Service of process may be accomplished in the traditntal way by a process server or it may be done by acknowledgment which is cheaper and a bit easier.

How may the Defendant be served?

Process must be served personally upon the defendant. In order to be valid, personal service upon a defendant must be made by 1) delivering a copy of the summons attached to a copy of the complaint to the defendant personally, or 2) by leaving copies at his or her dwelling house or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion residing therein, even though notice of such is not received by the defendant. However, for service made outside the state upon a Georgia resident, the service must be in person to the person served.

Georgia Civil Practice Act O.C.G.A § 9-11-4
If the defendant is a resident of Georgia

If the defendant is a nonresident but found sojourning within the state, he may be personally served with process […]. Generally, however, a nonresident is immune from service 1) while in attendance upon a court where he is a suitor or witness or 2) in going to or returning from the court; but this general rule would not apply if the person is in the state for some other purposes, or if the proceeding is not a “new” action.

Georgia Civil Practice Act O.C.G.A § 9-11-4
If the defendant is not a resident of Georgia

Failure to Respond to the Complaint

A defendant has 30 days from the date of service to answer a complaint for divorce. What happens if they fail to answer the complaint for divorce? The result can be particularly disastrous. If the defendant does not file an answer within 30 days of being served with the complaint, he/she waives all future notices regarding the trial of the case, including the time and place of the trial, the entry of judgment, and any notification of the decision. Basically, the whole divorce trial may go on without the defendant.