You need to give or send copies of your completed forms to the other party before the court will hear your case. The forms packet you got from the clerk or online tells you how to do this, Form FM-088. Follow the steps carefully.
You have three options for service:
1. Regular mail.
a. Make two copies of your forms. Keep the originals and one copy.
b. Then, mail a copy of your Motion to Modify, a copy of your Child Support Affidavit, and two copies of the Acknowledgement of Receipt, along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope, to the other person by mail. You do not need to mail the Summary Sheet.
c. The other person should sign one of the Acknowledgement of Receipt forms and send it back to you in the self-addressed envelope within 20 days. Once you get the Acknowledgement of Receipt back, make a copy.
d. You will keep a copy of all of your forms and file the originals with the court, including the Summary Sheet and Acknowledgement of Receipt.
e. If there is a filing fee and you cannot afford it, ask the clerk for an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees and Indigency Affidavit (or find them on our website), if you did not do that earlier.
Note: Instead of sending the forms by regular mail, you can hand deliver them. In either case, you need to get a signed "Acknowledgement of Receipt" form from the other party. If that person won't sign the form, get a Deputy Sheriff to serve the papers or try the certified mail option.
2. Certified Mail, Restricted Delivery and Return Receipt Requested.
a. Make two copies of your Motion to Modify and Child Support Affidavit, and one copy of your Summary Sheet. You do not need to send the Summary Sheet.
b. Take one copy of the Motion to Modify and Child Support Affidavit to the post office and ask to mail it “Restricted Delivery” to the other person, with a “Return Receipt” requested. The other person will have to sign for the package, and you will receive a Green Card back in the mail with proof of signature.
c. When you receive the Green Card back in the mail, make a copy. Then, take the originals of all of your forms, including the Green Card and Summary Sheet, to court, and keep the copies you made.
d. If there is a filing fee and you cannot afford it, ask the clerk for an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees and Indigency Affidavit (or find them on our website), if you did not do that earlier.
e. The post office will charge you for this service.
3. Service by Sheriff.
a. Make two copies of your forms. Send the original and 1 copy of the Motion to Modify and 1 copy of the Child Support Affidavit to the Sheriff’s office in your county.
b. In a letter or in person, ask the Sheriff to serve the other person and give the Sheriff the other person’s home and work address, or any other information which would help the Sheriff find the other person.
c. After the Sheriff “serves” the other person, the Sheriff will complete page 3 of the Motion to Modify and return the original to you. Make a copy.
d. You can then file the original Motion to Modify, Child Support Affidavit, and Summary Sheet with the Court.
e. If there is a filing fee and you cannot afford it, ask the clerk for an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees and Indigency Affidavit (or find them on our website), if you did not do that earlier. If you cannot afford to pay the Sheriff’s service fee (which may be over $30), you should file copies of your Motion to Modify and Child Support Affdavit with the court and request an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees and Indigency Affidavit. If it is approved, you can then take a copy of that order to the Sheriff, along with your other forms, for service, and the Sheriff should not make you pay.
Then file these papers with the court clerk:
- Motion to Modify (with "proof of service" section filled out, if served by sheriff)
- Child Support Affidavit (where mutual children are involved)
- Summary Sheet
- Signed acknowledgement form, if the other party accepted service.
- Green card from the post office, if you used certified mail service.
What if I can’t find the other party?
You may not be able to find the other party. If you have made all reasonable efforts but still cannot find them, the court may let you do Service by Publication. Ask the court clerk for a free Service by Publication forms packet. Follow the instructions on the cover sheet. This kind of service costs a lot. If you cannot afford to pay for it find out how to ask for a fee waiver.
What if we agree to all of the changes?
If you and the other party agree to all proposed changes, you can use a special court rule to avoid going to court. Here are the steps:
1. Write out your agreement.
2. Both of you sign the agreement in front of a Notary Public or attorney.
3. File your signed agreement with your Motion to Modify (and all other required forms).
A Judge will review your agreement and decide if they can approve it. If they have any questions or concerns, they will tell the clerk to schedule a conference to talk about it. Both parties should come to court for that conference. If the court approves your agreement, the clerk will mail the new Order to both of you.
Note: On a Motion to Modify child support only, the clerk will wait, up to 30 days, to see if the other party files a response. If there is no response and the request is for equal or more child support, the court will likely grant your request. But, if the other party does respond, or you are asking for the support amount to be lowered, you will go on to "The Court Process: What to Expect."
What if I’m the one who got served with the papers?
If you receive the papers by regular mail:
- Sign the Acknowledgement of Receipt form and mail it back to the sender so that it will reach them within 20 days of when they mailed it.
- Then, file an Entry of Appearance form and a written response and file it with the court within 20 days of when you received the Motion. If the Motion was one to modify child support only, you have 30 days to respond and ask a hearing.
- For any motions that involve child support, you must also file a FM-050 Child Support Affidavit.
- If you receive the papers by certified mail or from the Sheriff, you must:
- File an Entry of Appearance and written response with the court within 20 days of when you received the papers. You have 30 days to respond and ask for a hearing if the Motion to Modify is only about child support. For any motions that involve child support, also file an FM-050 Child Support Affidavit.
To prepare a response:
- Copy the top part of the motion, identifying the court and the parties, onto a blank sheet of paper. Then label the paper “Opposition to Motion.”
- Then answer the other party's statements that you don't agree with and explain why you think the court should reject the motion.
- You will also have the chance to explain where you stand on issues at the conference, the mediation, and any formal hearings you may have.
- Make sure you file the original with the court, mail a copy to the other person, and keep a copy for yourself.
You may also file a Counter-Motion. This just means there are things you want to change, too. If you are interested in this, include it in your written response and label your paper, “Opposition to Motion and Counter-Motion to Modify.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. If I got the motion papers in the mail from the other party, am I agreeing to everything in the papers if I sign and return the “Acknowledgment of Receipt” form?
A. No. By signing and returning the form, you are only agreeing that you got the motion papers. If you disagree with the motion, you need to file your written response with the court clerk within 20 days of the date you signed the acknowledgement form. (For a Motion to Modify Child Support, your request for hearing and written response must be filed within 30 days.)
Q: What if I don’t file a written response and Entry of Appearance?
If you don't file any kind of response—at least an Entry of Appearance form—the court can grant the motion by default, which means that the other person will probably get what they are asking for.