We spend a lot of time on this blog discussing some of the complicated and intricate legal issues that arise in a variety of family law cases. Sometimes, however, it’s more basic matters that can gum up the works. That includes matters like service of process, as California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained.
Wife filed for an annulment of her marriage to Husband and for a permanent restraining order against him in June 2010. A trial court initially entered a default judgment against Husband when he failed to respond to the petition and restraining order. It set the ruling aside a month later, however, after Husband said he was never served with the paperwork. A person being sued for divorce or annulment must be properly served in order to be required to respond and show up in court. Although a process server said he and another server properly served the petition and restraining order, the judge found that his testimony wasn’t credible. “I didn’t believe a word the man said,” the judge concluded. Husband also provided information showing that he didn’t live at the address where the documents were supposedly served.
On appeal, Wife argued that the trial judge didn’t allow her to provide certain evidence necessary to prove that Husband had been properly served. She claimed in particular that she had planned to call the second process server as a witness at an earlier hearing that the trial judge ultimately rescheduled due to illness. But the Fourth District found that Wife wasn’t prejudiced by the scheduling change. “The problem with [Wife]’s claim is that she fails to identify what ‘important information’ was not produced and what ‘vital testimony’ was not provided that would have changed the outcome,” the Court said.