Child custody arrangements aren’t easy, especially when one parent isn’t as available as the other. When those situations arise, you may have no other option than to go to court, if only for your child’s sake. Here are a few things to remember when looking into serving child custody papers.

1. What Does “Serving Papers” Mean?

According to law, important legal documents such as these can’t be sent through the mail. They have to be “served,” or handed directly to the interested party so there is no question that they have received the documentation.

2. Can I Serve Papers?

The law wants you to be safe, and because parents are so close to the heart of custody cases, they aren’t permitted to serve papers. Family and friends aren’t able to, either, meaning you’ll need a “disinterested,” or uninvolved, third party to handle the delivery.

3. What If I Can’t Find the Person?

It is imperative that you try your best to serve papers in person, but if that’s impossible the judge may allow other means. These can include email, social media or even texting documents.

4. Are There Time Limits?

Child custody cases typically have a 120-day window to serve papers. This isn’t always possible, and if you find that the person seems to be evading service a judge may grant an extension. Be aware that the judge is going to want to be assured you’re trying everything possible, and an extension should be requested well before the due date.

5. And If There’s No Sign of the Other Party?

If you have exhausted all options, including contacting their old friends, family and co-workers, the judge may allow you to publish the notification via newspaper.

Serving papers is not an easy ordeal, especially since you are essentially prohibited from doing so yourself. Look for qualified process servers to help you get on the right track first thing to help get the best outcome for your case, and even more importantly, your child.