How Long Does it Take to Be Served Divorce Papers?

By Beverly Bird

When your spouse tells you that she’s filed a divorce petition, you'll probably spend the next several days waiting for a sheriff’s officer to show up at your workplace to deliver the papers. That scenario is more fiction than reality. Most states offer other more pleasant options for service. In some cases, you may receive her papers the same day your spouse files them. In others, the process can take weeks or even months.

When your spouse tells you that she’s filed a divorce petition, you'll probably spend the next several days waiting for a sheriff’s officer to show up at your workplace to deliver the papers. That scenario is more fiction than reality. Most states offer other more pleasant options for service. In some cases, you may receive her papers the same day your spouse files them. In others, the process can take weeks or even months.

Time Limit

Your spouse doesn’t have to serve you with her papers the same day she files them. However, most states will dismiss her petition or complaint if she doesn’t get around to doing so within a reasonable period of time. The definition of “reasonable” varies among states. In California, it is two years. In other states, it is a matter of months. How long service takes depends on when your spouse begins the process.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Acceptance of Service

The fastest method of service is when you make arrangements with your spouse to voluntarily accept the papers. If you’ve retained an attorney, he will usually accept them on your behalf. If your spouse has retained an attorney, you can generally pick up the papers at his office and sign for them there. Your spouse can also give the papers to you personally in most states, as long as you sign an acceptance of service or a waiver of official service. By any of these means, service should only take a day or two.

Mail

Some states allow for service by mail, either regular, certified or both. In this case, how quickly you receive the papers depends on the United States Postal Service. Some states will not allow your spouse to mail you the papers herself; she must arrange to have an uninterested third party do it. This may take a little additional time, but it can all usually be accomplished in less than a week.

Sheriff or Process Server

If your spouse does choose to use the local sheriff to deliver the papers to you, or if your state only accepts service by this method, the time frame extends somewhat. Your spouse’s divorce petition will have to wait for an available deputy or officer, then that officer must track you down during business hours to serve you. This can take up to a week. The process is usually quicker if your spouse pays for a private process server to give you the paperwork. Private servers are not limited to working only during business hours and can call ahead to arrange to meet with you somewhere. Some states also allow a disinterested third party over the age of majority to hand-deliver the papers. If your spouse chooses any of these methods, you’ll probably receive the papers within about a week.

Publication

If your spouse doesn’t know where you’re currently living or working, this can delay the process of service significantly. If you’re trying to stay off the radar and avoid service, she can usually serve you by publication in a newspaper in most states. However, this requires special permission from the court. The entire process can take months, because most states will require her to diligently try to find you first.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Is it Normal for the Sheriff to Come to the Home to Present the Divorce Papers?

References

Related articles

How Much Time Does it Take to Get a Divorce After Signing the Papers?

Estimating the days before a court approves your marital settlement agreement requires a crystal ball, not a calculator. The fact that you and your spouse have worked out issues amicably is helpful in moving the case along, but the paperwork can get backed up indefinitely if you made procedural errors or the judge finds fault with the agreement.

Can You Rush a Divorce in Any Way?

Some people are as eager to get their divorces over with as they were to get married in the first place. If you're one of them, the odds of rushing your divorce through the legal system depend a great deal on where you live and whether your relationship with your soon-to-be ex remains civil. If the two of you can negotiate a settlement of all your marital issues, you can speed the process up considerably.

How to Send a Letter for a Divorce Signature

Good communication with your spouse may not save your marriage, but it can expedite your divorce. To proceed with a divorce, you must arrange for your spouse to get a copy of your filing papers, known as service of process. While not every couple can reach an amicable agreement, you will save time and money by arranging for a cooperative spouse to accept service of process by mail. If he signs the acknowledgment of service, the divorce can proceed.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Louisiana Laws for Serving Divorce Papers

Divorce is rarely an easy process. Louisiana law streamlines it in some ways and complicates it in others. After you ...

What Are the Rules for Serving Divorce Papers?

Simply filing a complaint or petition isn’t enough to begin the process of getting divorced. The court ...

A Husband Refuses a Service of Divorce While Overseas

A divorce action seeks to settle serious financial and family issues critical to both spouses, and the law requires ...

How to Get a Divorce in North Carolina If You Were Married in Texas

North Carolina’s divorce laws are some of the most lenient in the country, and you can take advantage of them ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED