How do I serve someone?

This post is intended as a general guideline for clients about options to serve parties with an initial complaint in the Circuit Court, this can includes custody or divorce cases. A party to the case CANNOT serve the paperwork on the other party. For example, the Plaintiff cannot hand the Defendant a Divorce Complaint (like you see in the movies), this is NOT proper service.


There are four main options in Michigan:

  1. Certified Restricted Mail - This means the paperwork will go to an address of your choosing (usually the home address) to the person being served. That person must be the one to sign for the paperwork. If they are not home when the paperwork comes, the post office will leave a ticket for them to take to the post office on their own time to pick up the paperwork. The post office usually holds paperwork for about two weeks. This method also provides a tracking number to monitor the status of service. This is by far the most common method of service.

  2. Voluntary Service - the party voluntarily comes to your attorney's office and is served by our staff. This is as simple as the party showing a photo ID and our staff handing them the paperwork. Your attorney will usually execute an Affidavit after the fact and file this with the Court to finalize this form of service.

  3. Personal Service - Another adult (NOT the Plaintiff) over the age of 18 who can personally identify the Defendant personally hands the paperwork to the Defendant. This adult then needs to come to our office to sign an Affidavit in front of a notary, stating the date, location and time they served the other party.

  4. Process Server - Sometimes it is appropriate to hire a professional process server, who is usually a deputized sheriff to serve the party at a specific date/time/location. This method can be expensive as the server charges per attempt at service.

If all of the options above fail, sometimes it is possible to serve the other party by publication. This would happen in a situation where one person has not had contact with the other in many years and does not know where they reside, but still wants a divorce. This must be granted by Court Order.


It is a common misconception that someone has to agree to a divorce in order to get divorced. As long as you get proper service, your case can be completed, making this a very important step in your case!


Attorney Allison Greenlee Korr handles cases in the counties of Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Van Buren and St. Joseph, call today for a consultation. 269-381-4471