What does it mean to be “served” according to Georgia law and what should you do if you are served?

Every civil lawsuit (including domestic relations cases such as divorce paper and child support modification) requires what is called service of process.  The purpose of service is of course, to notify the person being sued that a lawsuit has been filed against him or her and that some response or defense is necessary to protect his or her legal rights. 

In order to obtain personal jurisdiction over a Defendant, the lawsuit must be personally served on the Defendant by a sheriff’s deputy or a qualified process server.  In cases that are not contested or where the Defendant is made aware that a lawsuit is pending, the Defendant may choose to sign an acknowledgment of service forgoing the potential embarrassment or humiliation of being served by an official looking “process server” or sheriff’s deputy.

What to Do After Being Served with Divorce Papers

Once a Defendant is served with a lawsuit, he or she should immediately seek legal counsel to ensure that a proper responsive pleading is filed.  Georgia law specifically provides that a party that fails to file a responsive pleading after service is deemed to waive his/her right to all future notices, including notices of time and place of trial and entry of judgment.  In plain language, if you do not file a responsive pleading, the other party may go to the judge and get whatever relief he or she is requesting, whether it’s fair to you or not. Once a judgment is entered, it can be difficult to get it set aside, even if it is unfair or blatantly factually incorrect. 

It is extremely important to retain or at least consult with an attorney if you are served with legal papers.  In most cases if you are served with a lawsuit, whether the suit involves divorce, money damages, injunctive relief, pain and suffering, or any other claim under the law, the clock starts ticking on the date of service and you have a limited time, usually thirty (30) days, to take the appropriate response.  While it may seem expensive, intimidating, or inconvenient to seek legal advice or representation just because another individual has decided to file a lawsuit against you, it is important to recognize that failing to properly respond could have a significant negative effect on your life (a judgment for damages, child support, etc.).  Even after you are served it is important to take appropriate action to make sure that all other parties to the lawsuit are notified of your defenses and to make sure that you receive notification of all future court proceedings.

You do not have to go through the divorce process alone. Experienced divorce attorney, Crystal Wright, will help you by discussing your case, guiding you through the Georgia divorce process, and explaining your options and rights. Employing an experienced family law attorney to represent your interest in a divorce case is essential in realizing the most beneficial outcome for you and your loved ones. Attorney Crystal Wright can be contacted at (404) 594-2143.