Examining Service: Your Only Chance to Make a First Impression

Monday, February 13, 2012

When counsel for plaintiff chooses how to serve the defendant in a divorce, the decision has huge implications for the rest of the divorce, psychologically as well as legally. Rule 4 of the Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure (“RDRP”)allows for different methods, and it is fitting that counsel explain to her (includes “his”) client the implications of each. For the bellicose example: one of the most intimidating moments in the entire divorce process occurs when the big burly constable rings the doorbell to serve the divorce papers, or worse shows up at defendant’s place of work for all to see. For the defendant who does not have a clue that plaintiff wants a divorce, it may take weeks to recover from the shock. By contrast, in a recent case of John’s counsel for plaintiff began the divorce by calling the defendant husband on the phone and informing him as tactfully as she could that her client wanted a divorce, and then explaining the alternatives for service. She asked the defendant if he would accept service, he said he would and subsequently did. The lesson: the manner one chooses to go about serving the divorce papers can and often does have a huge impact on the overall tone of the case, for a long time and maybe even “Aftermarriage,” to quote Anita Robboy.

View the Winter 2012 Family Law Section Newsletter to continue reading this article.