So you have finally decided that you are getting a divorce. You have come to terms with the idea of it and understands that it can be a long and arduous process. The initial paperwork that you will fill out is called a divorce petition. Also commonly known as divorce summons, it details exactly what is being requested (divorce, custody, alimony, etc.), as well as any necessary information about the marriage that is relevant to the divorce itself.

To file this paperwork, you must go to your county’s court, as that court has jurisdiction, or right to rule, over the matter. Once this is completed, these papers will be served to your spouse. What this means is that your spouse will be notified that you have filed for a divorce, and it has been filed with the county court, therefore initiating the divorce process.

The law says that your spouse should be notified in a reasonable amount of time, as to prepare themselves for the proceedings by retaining counsel, and with the adequate knowledge of what is being asked for. Therefore, upon being served, your spouse will learn how much you are asking for (if that is the case), or any other conditions you are asserting, as well as the first trial date.

The case will not begin until the court knows for certain that the spouse receiving the divorce petition received it and has been made aware of the divorce. Most of the time, an attorney will take care of this aspect of the case. However, if you are not serving your spouse via your divorce lawyer, here are other ways on how to serve divorce papers and obtain a proof of service.

4 Acceptable Ways To Serve Divorce Papers On Your Spouse

  1. Have someone, unrelated to you, and over the age of 18 to personally deliver it to your spouse. Upon being served, your spouse will also sign and date the Acceptance of the Service paper, so that the court can verify its reception.
  2. A petition can also be mailed, and attached to it will be an acknowledgment form that, once again, your spouse must date and sign, AND return. This method of service can be tricky, as mail is not always predictable. These issues can arise with first class mail; so another method is certified mail. When you serve papers this way, your spouse is required to sign a piece of paper that is directly attached to the envelope that your spouse receives and mails back to you, as proof of service.
  3. You can actually hire a process server to serve your divorce petition well. Their job, in a very basic sense, is to serve the divorce summons, have it filled out by the receiving spouse, and file it with the court. You can also hire your local Sheriff to do it as well.
  4. If all of these methods ultimately fail, the court will eventually allow service via publication. Newspaper ads where your spouse resides and the like are accepted methods, so long as you have a copy of the newspaper ad itself, and a statement for how long it was in the papers for. This is your substitute for a proof of service.

If you need help on how to serve divorce papers or how to respond to a divorce summons, contact Paul E. Rudder, Esq. for a consultation at (212) 826-9900 or email at