How to Serve a Spouse Divorce Papers 

Apr 26, 2023 12 min read
ABC Legal Services

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ABC Legal Services

As anyone going through a divorce knows, divorce is one of the most stressful things you can go through. It can be a challenging process to manage emotionally, financially, mentally, or otherwise. 

The legal side of divorce alone can feel overwhelming. Do you need a lawyer to make your divorce official? What are the laws around divorce in your state? How can you be sure you serve a spouse divorce papers the "right" way?  

In this guide, we'll answer these questions, discuss why proper service of process matters in divorce cases, and walk through what steps you will need to take.  

Do You Need an Attorney to Get a Divorce?  

In some states, couples may choose to not hire an attorney if the divorce is uncontested and both parties agree on all the terms of the divorce. That said, having a lawyer look through your agreement in an uncontested divorce can help make sure that your rights and interests are protected. A lawyer also can be a valuable resource for helping you file paperwork and navigate court hearings. An attorney helps ensure you understand what's going on every step of the way. 

If you’re considering proceeding through a divorce without an attorney, it’s important to understand your options fully and ensure you are meeting state regulations. Every state has specific requirements for an uncontested divorce, such as residency requirements or waiting periods, as well as guidance on the issues that need to be included in the marital settlement agreement, such as division of property. The rules and forms you will need to file an uncontested divorce case will vary based on the state and county that you and/or your spouse live in. 

In certain situations where there is the likelihood of a difficult resolution or power imbalance, experts suggest always hiring a divorce attorney. They note these circumstances include: 

  • If your spouse hires an attorney  
  • If your divorce involves children or complicated financial issues 
  • You think your spouse is lying about certain issues or being vindictive 
  • If there is a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or sexual abuse 

Do I Need to File Divorce Papers? 

Each state has statutory requirements and procedures for the divorce process and how a petition to divorce must be filed. These requirements typically include state residency, waiting periods, reasons or “grounds” for the divorce, and defenses to divorce.  

One spouse must file a legal petition with their county clerk asking the court to terminate the marriage. All states require that the spouse who files for divorce be a resident of the state in which they file their divorce petition. The amount of time required for establishing residency varies from state to state, but generally ranges from three months to one year. 

Your attorney can help you prepare the needed documents and complete filing. Although filing processes and requirements vary by state, documents will usually include a petition or complaint for dissolution, a summons for the spouse to appear and respond to the filing, and verification or certification attesting to the truthfulness of the petition.  

Once you have completed and filed your forms with the court, the court will return the documents you need for service. You will then have a certain period set by the state to serve notice to your spouse.  

Your petition for marriage dissolution will include:

  • A statement that at least one spouse meets the state's residency requirements for divorce. 
  • A legal reason for divorce. These vary by state and whether you file an at-fault or a no-fault divorce. At-fault reasons include adultery, abandonment, impotence, infertility, criminal conviction, emotional or physical abuse, substance abuse, and mental illness. No-fault reasons include irreconcilable differences, incompatibility, and irretrievable breakdown. 
  • Any other statutory information the state requires. 

Once documents have been served on your spouse, you will receive proof of service to submit to the court.  

Do Divorce Papers Have to Be Served?  

Even if both parties agree on all matters, in most states and circumstances, you will have to serve a spouse divorce papers. This formal delivery is called "service of process," and the way you do it will need to comply with stateand local regulations. 

Most of the time, you'll be having someone deliver a summons and a complaint. The summons lets your spouse know of your intent to divorce; the complaint contains specific details about what you're asking for in terms of child custody, alimony, shared debt, etc. Some states also require you to serve papers on your spouse's lawyer, if your spouse has retained counsel.  

Who Serves Divorce Papers?  

From state to state, there are different rules around who serves divorce papers. For example, in some states, any unbiased third party over the age of 18 can serve a spouse divorce papers while in other states, you must work with a professional process server or the sheriff's office.  The one common thread tying most of the states together is that you typically cannot serve your spouse yourself.  

In addition to who can carry out service, local and state rules also dictate the manner of providing service. Registered mail delivery or leaving a summons at a residence may be acceptable in some states under certain conditions, while other states may require in-person delivery. 

While how to serve a spouse divorce papers may seem relatively straightforward at first glance, there are several reasons why hiring a professional process server can be a good investment. It is up to you to make sure your spouse gets served properly, or your case will be dismissed and you will have to start all over.  

By working with an established company that offers service of process, you’ll have greater assurance of compliance with court regulations and local laws. With ABC Legal’s network of professional process servers, you can always trust that: 

  • Your process server will be trained in state and local laws 
  • Your papers will be served in a timely, efficient manner  
  • You will be able to track your papers every step of the way and receive alerts of changes in status as service completes  
  • Your server will make an agreed number of attempts at service on different days at different times, if needed 
  • You will receive details about the serve and supporting evidence, such as photos and/or GPS coordinates, providing you with ironclad proof of service that holds up in court, reducing likelihood of delay 
  • Your serve will be validated against state and local rules regarding service of processes 

How Much Does It Cost to Serve Divorce Papers?  

Pricing for service of process varies by state, by server, and will be higher if rush service is needed. You should always request in advance the pricing to serve a spouse divorce papers and inquire about any potential extra charges that could be incurred.   

ABC Legal’s standard delivery offers an attempt within five business days, and rush service—an extra $65–– offers an attempt within 2 business days. The process server will make 2-3 attempts per week, up to 6 attempts total. 

Our pricing at ABC Legal is always transparent and easy to predict; simply enter your info here and you'll get a quote. It doesn't get easier than that! 

Serve a Spouse Divorce Papers: Next Steps 

Whenever you’re ready to place an order for service, ABC Legal guides you through the process at every step. At the start of your order, you’ll indicate whether you are an attorney or an individual placing the order directly. Then simply choose speed of service and upload your documents. Next, you'll provide the name of the individual to be served, their best address and, if applicable, any notes that may be helpful for the process server about best times to serve, and your contact information should any questions arise.  

Once you verify all of your information and approve the serve, ABC Legal takes care of the rest. You will be notified once the serve begins, and you’ll be able to monitor progress from your account through completion. After the serve is complete, you’ll receive a signed attestation of service document from ABC Legal to file with the court to prove that your spouse has been served. You’ll then be ready to move forward with your case in court.  
 How to Serve a Spouse Divorce Papers

The information on this page does not constitute legal advice and is for general, informational use. Due to the changeability of laws, the information on this page may not reflect the most recent local laws. Always consult current legal and civil codes in your area for the most accurate information. 

ABC Legal Team

Written by

ABC Legal Team
Trusted by over 50,000 professionals, ABC Legal is America’s leading process server. Our cloud-based system seamlessly streamlines document delivery across all devices. With a network of 3,000+ servers spanning 50 states and 77 countries, our platform provides real-time updates for our 6 million+ annual attempts, enhancing transparency, compliance, and reliability.

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