Summons is defined by Wikipedia as "A call by an authority to appear, come, or do something."
The Summons is a document filed with the Court along with the initial Petition for Dissolution, Separation, Determination of Paternity, etc. The Summons is the document which requires the Defendant/Respondent to "appear" and "respond" to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Without a Summons being "served", your case will die a natural death and nothing will happen.
2. Service of Process:
After filing your initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, your need to have the Petition and Summons "served" upon your spouse (or the other biological parent in a paternity case). To properly "serve" your spouse, the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage MUST be delivered to your spouse by either the Sheriff's Department or a Special Process Server. Once "served" the respondent spouse has 30 days to file his/her appearance and answer with the Clerk of the Court in the county the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was filed.
3. Alternatives to formal Service:
While the only way to force your spouse to file an Appearance and Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is to have him/her formally served with the Summons, there are other, gentler methods to get the ball rolling. These alternatives to service are explored during your initial consultation.