How Long Does it Take to Be Served Divorce Papers?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

How Long Does it Take to Be Served Divorce Papers?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

The time it takes for you to receive divorce papers can vary depending on the circumstances. While every state has a different process for serving divorce papers, most states offer similar options.

Two people sitting across from each other at a table signing documents and a suited man sitting at the head of the table

Delivery and Acceptance of Divorce Petition

Depending on where you live, your spouse could have a few short hours or several months to serve you with divorce papers. Your state will provide instructions, along with the applicable deadline, for this process. Most states will also dismiss the petition for divorce if your spouse doesn't serve the papers to you in a reasonable period of time. Reasonableness has different definitions depending on the state, but if you weren't served within the required time frame, you could have the petition dismissed entirely.

You must accept the divorce petition when it is delivered to you. This often involves signing a document agreeing that you have accepted delivery, and have the documents in hand. If you've hired an attorney, he or she will usually accept the divorce papers on your behalf. The process of serving you with divorce papers can vary by state. What's important is that you or your attorney have accepted the papers. There are various methods by which your spouse can serve you divorce papers, including via mail, publication, or a process server.


Your spouse can serve you divorce papers by mail. It's a good practice to use certified mail, but it's not required in every state. Even if your spouse uses regular mail, depending on the rules of your state, that may count as proper service of your divorce papers. Once mailed, you are deemed to have been served five days later.


Sometimes the only way to serve someone is by publishing it in a newspaper. This may seem odd but some couples wait many years after separating before they file for divorce. In this situation, one of them might be unaware of where the other person currently resides.

Most states require that your spouse make a good faith effort in trying to find you. Once publication is deemed the only option, your spouse will need to publish the notice of filing divorce for several months to give you ample time to see the notice. Some states require publication in more than one newspaper.

Process Server

The best way to serve you divorce papers is by using a process server. A process server will work as many hours and days as it takes to make sure you are served. They will also be more willing to schedule a time to meet with you. Upon service, you will be required to sign attesting to the successful delivery.

Generally, using a process server is a quick and efficient way to serve divorce papers on your spouse. Of course, the fastest way to serve divorce papers is to speak with your spouse, and agree to meet with them to ensure delivery. If you choose this route, however, you should ask your spouse to sign a document that formalizes the delivery process.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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