January 28th, 2008
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Many states allow for you to serve the non-custodial parent with the petition for termination of parental rights and the petition for adoption yourself, instead of paying for the service to be done for you. It can cost several hundred dollars to have someone served with court documents, so many families often find themselves wondering if they should pay, or just do it themselves.

The first thing to consider is safety. If you have any reason whatsoever to believe that the non-custodial parent could become enraged, violent, or otherwise dangerous in any way shape or form, then it is best to advise the professionals of the potential danger, and then let them handle it. They are used to dealing with this situation on a daily basis and are better prepared than the average joe.


Are you dealing with an ex that simply refuses to communicate with you at all, making no effort to see the child that they helped create, nor responding to your requests for dialog about the possibilities of a stepparent adoption? If any of this sounds all too familiar to you, then again, it is best to let the professionals do what they get paid to do. Their are many tricks to the trade when it comes to serving court papers to reluctant recipients that will bring about eventual success to even the most elusive

While the initial cost of the service may seem expensive, factor in the fees that you would incur if you were to do it yourself. How much extra gas would you use? Would you need to stop for meals along the way, perhaps even stay overnight? If it is a short trip, and you feel that the exchange will go well, then you can probably serve the noncustodial parent with the forms yourself, however, if the noncustodial parent is not willing to communicate with you, or has no idea that you are considering a stepparent adoption, and this will be the first that he or she will hear of it, perhaps it is best if you were to let a neutral third party be the one to deliver the news.

3 Responses to “Should I Serve The Petition Personally?”

  1. John says:

    I am amazed that any state allows the planitff to serve, the obvious result may be a court date where the defendant shows up claiming he wasn’t served, or that there was some defect in the service. A process server has credibility with the court and eliminates this type of game playing.

    If the defendant is just finding out for the first time that the plan is to dump him (and yes, from his perspective that is what it would be), it is daft to think that he is likely to accept this calmly and rationaly. Would you?

    Kids do need homes that are as normal as possible, but it is not the right of the custodial parent or step parent to remove the other parent because it makes their life simpler or easier. Yes, there are parents who are not part of the child’s life and have no intention of changing. There are also parents who don’t get along with their ex, but still have some invovlement with the child.

    It is discouraging that the law seems to allow such an easy process to get rid of the parent the ex doesn’t want. Surely there should be required independant reports to the court, and not just accusations of the ex. It should be the petitioner who has to prove the case, not the non-custodial parent who must disprove the ex’s claims. This sure seems to be messed up. John

  2. Yes family court allows for you to serve papers for many different cases, including divorce.

    Some noncustodial parents are very willing to sign, so bringing the papers over by hand for them to sign and return makes sense all the way around.

    In the instance where I spoke of a noncustodial parent finding out about the adoption for the first time through service, I was speaking about those particular parents whom refuse to make contact with either the child nor the custodial parent. The custodial parent may have tried to contact the noncustodial parent several times and received no response, therefore the noncustodial parent is caught off guard not because of being attacked, but because of their refusal to communicate.

    I agree that the laws need to be changed. There are those out there who manipulate the system to get what they want. The petitioner does have to prove the noncustodial parent unfit, which is why contested stepparent adoptions can drag through the court systems as both sides argue.

  3. John says:

    Years ago I did a service for a landlord tenant issue. My tenant was Mr. Placid, or so I thought. It was not only uncomfortable, it was also unsafe. Yes, I was trying not to pay for a server, never did that again. I understand that you may be trying to communicate with someone who will not respond, but that is the person most likley to become enraged when their scheme not only doesn’t work, but now they are going to court. It can be scary to have one of these go bad. John

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