How To Serve Divorce Papers (What and When To Serve)

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How to Serve Divorce Papers (What and When to Serve)

In a divorce case, service refers to the formal act of letting the other party know that you filed documents with the superior court.

It is an essential aspect of any divorce case. The party who initially files for divorce is called the divorce petitioner. To start divorce proceedings in the state of Arizona, the petitioner has to file documents with the court. Then, they must serve the divorce paperwork to the respondent.

The respondent must receive proper service of the documents, and the petitioner must provide acceptable proof of service to the court.

If the petitioner does not serve the correct documents through an acceptable method of service, it can delay the divorce process, delay termination of the community until service has been completed, and potentially cause the case to be dismissed.

The respondent’s allotted response time can vary, depending on the service method used. So, it is essential to be mindful of the timelines, especially if you want a speedy divorce.

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Service Documents Needed

You must serve the proper divorce papers to the respondent. The specific divorce papers required depend on your case. However, here is a list of common divorce paperwork needed to serve the respondent:

  • “Summons”
  • “Preliminary Injunction”
  • “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) With or Without Children”
  • “Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance”
  • “Notice of Your Rights About Health Insurance Coverage”
  • “Parent Information Program Order and Notice”
  • “Affidavit of Minor Children”
  • “Notice Regarding Creditors”

Hands of wife, husband signing decree of divorce, dissolution, canceling marriage, legal separation documents, filing divorce papers or premarital agreement prepared by lawyer. Wedding ring.

You need to serve all of the divorce papers you filed with the court. Failure to serve one or more documents can delay your case or cause more significant problems.

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Types of Service for Divorce Papers

There are several ways to serve the divorce papers to the respondent. The appropriate service type depends on your situation, and choosing the correct method is critical. If the service is not done lawfully, the presiding judge can require you to re-serve the respondent which can impact your case in many ways.

It is also important to understand that this article deals with general information about service as it pertains to family law in Arizona. Other areas of law have their own rules of procedure which may differ from family law.

Service by Acceptance and Acknowledgment of Receipt

Service by Acceptance and Acknowledgement of Receipt is one of the easiest ways to complete the service process.

This method is ideal if you are still on speaking terms with the other party. To use this method, provide the respondent with copies of the divorce papers you filed with the court.

Then, the respondent will sign an “Acknowledgement of Receipt,” have it notarized, and return the form to you. If you use this method, the

“Acknowledgement of Receipt” is the proof of service you need to provide to the court.

Service by Private Process Server

If you are unsure of whether the other party will acknowledge receipt of the divorce papers, you can hire a private process server.

A private process server is a state-certified server. Before receiving their certification, they must pass a test showing that they are aware of the rules they need to follow to serve legal documents lawfully.

Process servers have experience that helps them effectively serve people. So, they can be a great tool when you are trying to get someone served quickly.

Husband and wife are reading divorce agreement and filing pen to signing decree of divorce (dissolution or cancellation) of marriage filing divorce papers and two golden marry ring.

You can find a process server by searching the Yellow Pages, an online business directory, or the official list of process servers in the state.

The professional process server has to be certified. Otherwise, the court will not recognize the service as valid.

Service by Sheriff

An alternative method of service by way of county sheriff. To have the respondent served by the county sheriff, you need to contact the sheriff’s department in the county where the party lives.

There is a fee for this type of service, and you must contact the appropriate office to obtain the fees.

After the sheriff serves the party, they will provide a proof of service form you can file with the court clerk.

Substitute Service

It is always best if the party receives service personally; however, in some situations, that is not possible. Which is why there’s substituted service. Substituted service is when a private process server or sheriff serves someone who meets the criteria for substitute service.

Typically this will be someone else, of suitable age, at the respondent’s home who also lives at that address.

However, this is not always an option so it is important to discuss whether this is an appropriate means of service with an experienced family law attorney.

Service by Registered Mail or Courier Service

If you know the address of the person to be served, you may want to try service by certified mail or national courier service.

The delivery must be restricted to the person to be served and requires that the recipient sign for the documents. Once you receive the signed receipt from the post office or national courier service, you must then file the appropriate affidavit with the court and attach a copy of the signed receipt to the affidavit. While this option seems like a good idea because it is cheaper than hiring a process server, it can cause more problems and delay than it is worth.

If you are considering this option, you should discuss it with an experienced family law attorney to determine if it is appropriate for your situation.

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When to Serve Divorce Papers

Once the petitioner files the divorce paperwork, they have 120 days to serve the respondent.

Detail of signing divorce papers.

However, typically, it is essential to serve divorce papers as soon as possible.

The date of service is very important for many aspects of your case. As an example, it represents the date of termination of the community, it starts other aspects of the case moving forward, and it is important for other considerations. .

So, the longer service takes, the longer it will take to finalize the divorce.

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Timetable for Response to Service Before Default

If the respondent does not respond to the court after they receive service, a judge may give the petitioner a default divorce.

A judge will not issue a default divorce if the other party files a response. The timetable for default divorce is crucial if you want to complete the divorce process promptly.

Utilizing a method that gives the respondent a longer period to respond will delay the process. Take a look at the table below for the length of time a respondent has to respond based on the method of service used.

The table also includes when the court considers the court papers served.

Type of Service

Days to Respond After Receipt

Acceptance by Acknowledgement


Process Server


Service by Sheriff


Out of State Acceptance of Service


Out of State Registered Mail


Out of State Service by Sheriff or Process Server


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Help with Service

Service of process is an essential step in divorce cases. However, it is not always easy to serve the respondent. Many times they do not want to accept service, or you might not know where your soon-to-be-ex spouse lives—you may not even have their phone number.

Additionally, in some cases, you may need to ask the judge for an alternative method of service.

Situations like these can be very frustrating. If you are having difficulty serving or responding to court papers, a divorce attorney can help.
Without a divorce lawyer, it can be hard to navigate through the divorce process.

lawyer or judge work in the office with gavel and balance

As family law attorneys, we are well-versed in the legal process. We provide complex legal services, and we can give you legal advice to make process services easier and divorce proceedings more straightforward.

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Schedule a Consultation with a Scottsdale Divorce Lawyer Today

Take Control and Protect Your Future

The lawyers at Burggraff Tash Levy know that choosing the right divorce attorney is a personal matter. This is why you will never feel any pressure during your consultation. We are here to answer your questions, discuss your options, help you understand your rights, and, if we represent you in your divorce, our lawyers will guide you through every step of the process as efficiently as possible. We work to keep costs low so that you can start this new chapter of your life in the best position possible.

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