Do Divorce Papers Expire if Not Served?

By Beverly Bird

Divorce involves an intricate series of rules -- and many of them come with deadlines. Service of process is one such rule. Your spouse has a right to defend himself in the divorce action, so you must serve your divorce papers on him according to the laws of your state. There's usually a deadline by which you must do so, but it can vary depending on where you live.

The Summons Expires

Technically, your divorce petition or complaint doesn't expire if you don't serve it on your spouse -- but the corresponding summons does. A summons is an additional document you must file with your petition in most states, informing your spouse that you're suing him for divorce. The amount of time you have to serve your summons, along with the petition, can be as short as four months in New York, or up to two years in California. Sometimes county rules can override state rules, so check with your local courthouse to be sure how much time you have.

The Court Can Dismiss

If your summons expires for lack of service, some states will dismiss your divorce pleadings. In other jurisdictions, dismissal may not be automatic. However, if your summons isn't valid anymore, you can't serve it with your petition, and without service, the divorce will not move forward. This doesn't mean you have to stay married though. You can refile for divorce and start over. If you couldn't serve your spouse because you don't know where he is, it's possible that you may be able to achieve service through other methods, such as posting a notice in a newspaper.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How Soon Can I Get a Divorce After a Spouse is Served in Texas?


Related articles

How to Withdraw a Divorce Complaint in New Jersey

Not everyone is unequivocally sure they want to end their marriage. They may file a divorce complaint in the heat of anger, only to calm down a little later. They may have thought about divorce for some time, only to realize that it may be possible to reconcile. If this happens to you and you change your mind after filing for divorce, and if you happen to live in New Jersey, withdrawing your complaint is a relatively simple process.

Motion to Reinstate a Divorce Complaint

Deadlines and mandatory court filings can complicate the divorce process, especially when you’re representing yourself and you're unsure of the rules. It’s surprisingly easy to take a misstep that might result in the court throwing out your case by dismissing your complaint. Fortunately, you can usually remedy the situation very easily by correcting your error and filing a motion with the court to reinstate it.

How to File for Divorce in South Carolina When the Spouse's Residence Is Unknown

Not all spouses run immediately to the courthouse to file for divorce when they separate. You might live apart for a while, then ultimately decide to make things official and legally end your marriage. If you've lost track of your spouse in the meantime, you can still get a divorce in South Carolina. It's just a matter of taking a few more steps.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Serve Military Personnel With Divorce Papers

Military courts cannot grant divorces, so military couples must get divorced in state courts following the same basic ...

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 can’t make ...

The Time Frame to Adjudicate Divorce Default in New York

A default divorce occurs when the defendant receives notice that his spouse has filed for divorce and he does nothing ...

What Can You Do When Your Spouse Refuses a Divorce Summons in Washington?

No state allows a spouse to block the divorce process by refusing to accept service of the summons and petition. ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED