If you decide to end your marriage, filing the proper documents with the court is only the first step. An equally important step is giving your spouse official notice of the lawsuit. State law varies on the types of service of process permitted, but all require that it be accomplished within a limited period of time.
Time Limit for Filing
You cannot file a divorce case and keep it secret from your spouse. Courts require a petitioner to serve a copy of the court documents on his spouse within a certain number of days. California, for example, gives the petitioner 60 days to serve. If you serve after the deadline, the court may impose fines for untimely service or even dismiss your case.
If you are having trouble serving your spouse with notice of the divorce, most states have laws and procedures to help you. Check to see what alternative service options your state permits, such as substituted service at a spouse's home or office, or publication in a newspaper. Family law courts have jurisdiction to extend the service period if you show that you are diligently working to locate and serve your spouse.