divorce papers

How to Serve Divorce Papers

There comes a time in some marriages when divorce seems like the only viable option left. If and when you decide to file for divorce, you must follow the proper steps. Failure to abide by the court can result in you needing to restart the entire process.

To begin the divorce process, you need to serve papers to your spouse. While this may seem simple enough, the process is convoluted, especially if you do it without a lawyer.

What Does It Mean to Serve Your Spouse With Divorce Papers?

The laws require divorced parties in any state's jurisdictions to give copies of their documents filed with the courts to the other spouse. Each state has different requirements regarding the delivery of the papers. Delivery of divorce papers is also known as "service of process."

Who Can Help With Serving Papers?

Various states provide different means that can help you with serving documents. However, all states have one similar rule: you cannot serve the papers yourself. Instead, it is better to look up processing servers. A professional process server is a person with no involvement in the divorce who delivers divorce papers. This individual must have a minimum of 18 years of age to provide the documents.

If you don't want to pay for a processing service, you can ask a family member or friend not involved in the divorce to deliver the papers.

Another option is to have the sheriff provide the documents. There is one main restriction to this method. The delivery location must be within the sheriff's jurisdiction. Otherwise, the officer cannot fulfill the duty. Having friends or family do this for you saves you money, whereas you have to pay fees for the sheriff, court clerk, or process server. Additionally, you can send the papers via certified mail with the return receipt requested upon arrival.

Regardless of who serves the papers, all delivery servers must fill out and sign the proof of service on the back of the Summons form and file this document with the court. If the recipient refuses to accept service, the private process server must document this information to show a delivery attempt and refusal to sign the service form.

How Do I Serve the Rest of the Court Papers I File?

Generally, police officers, sheriffs, private process services, or court clerks serve the initial divorce paperwork. Once your spouse receives the initial divorce papers, you may serve the rest of the court documents throughout the divorce process. You must send an original copy of all court-filed documents to your partner. You can hand-deliver the paperwork or use the post office to mail your documents. Given how most documents contain sensitive or confidential information, you should serve them if you live nearby your spouse.


When it's time to serve your spouse, we know how emotionally difficult it can be. Thankfully, you don't have to do it yourself. The law requires you to have a third party deliver the papers.

Going through the divorce process on your own is exhausting and stressful. At Hickey and Hull Law Partners, we work with people just like you who need help and representation. Contact us today to find out how we can help you get back on track.